Letter to Governor Northam
April 30, 2018
Governor of Virginia
UVA seminar Biosocialities: Health Beyond the Human
c/o Dr. Megan S. Raschig
Department of Anthropology
University of Virginia
Dear Governor Northam,
We are an interdisciplinary group of UVA advanced undergraduate and graduate students who have spent the better part of 2018 critically engaging with issues of environmental relationships between people, place, and other living things. In our seminar, we listened to your recent comments in Roanoke regarding your concern for the anti-Mountain Valley Pipeline protesters’ health, specifically their need for food and water while occupying treetops in the path of construction. We find your concern for accessible water to be an encouraging and important one. However, we also find it ironic that, as a doctor and governor, your concern does not extend to the long term health of your greater constituency and its sustained access to clean water. Natural gas pipelines are known to leak and contaminate water tables, devastating ecosystems and threatening human needs. We note that developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have agreed to make available $27.5 million in construction mitigation funds, a considerable amount of money which suggests that a substantial amount of harm is expected to ensue from simply building this pipeline – not an if, but a when. What would it take for you to take seriously the inevitability that this pipeline will cause serious danger to the health of Virginia citizens and this state’s beautiful and historical landscape?
In your comments, as you ask the protesters to “let the DEQ do its job,” and refer to DEQ’s standards as particularly “high.” However, the Mountain Valley Pipeline is currently being constructed not through DEQ permits but through the Army Corps of Engineers’ permits. Dominion applied successfully to the Army Corps of Engineers to be regulated according to their national standards, rather than specific local ones. The DEQ requires individual stream crossings to be regulated and tested to determine if usage is being prohibited by the construction of the pipeline, but the Army Corps requirements do not require such stringent testing. Section 404(e) of the Clean Water Act holds that the Army Corps of Engineers “can issue general permits to authorize activities that have only minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects.” This is surely not the case with the Mountain Valley Pipeline. And in any case, this deferral of rules means that the high DEQ standards you refer to are not being met in this project. If you are truly concerned with these protocols and the clean water they aim to protect, you will demand that MVP developers follow the appropriate set of regulations.
We implore you to take seriously the protestors’ opposition against this pipeline’s construction. They are not simply getting in the way of progress or process, but rather are articulating important local knowledge and relationships. In doing so, you will truly demonstrate that you privilege your constituents’ health -- that which you already claim to value.
The students of Anthropology 5590, Biosocialities: Health Beyond the Human
Haytham Althubaiti, Laura Barham, Alisson Baya, Belle Cifu, Caity Embly, Jonathan Favini, Erin Jordan, Kevan Klosterwill, Kerstin Niedermaier, Gregory Sollish, Cara Turett, and Dr. Megan Raschig