Good neighbors don’t threaten landowners
By Michael M. Barrrick
News item: Near Staunton, Va. farmers Joan and Roger Geary are just two of thousands of landowners in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina being threatened by Richmond-based Dominion Resources with court orders if landowners refuse Dominion access to their land so that it can survey their land for the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP).
Unfortunately, it seems that Virginia law, specifically 56-4901 of the Virginia Code, allows Dominion to do this.
That does not, however, make it right. And it is certainly not consistent with the marketing campaign by Dominion in which they claim to be “Building Community” as good neighbors. Good neighbors don’t hide behind the law to destroy another person’s land.
In today’s issue of the Clarksburg (W.Va.) Exponent-Telegram, Dominion has a full page advertisement on page A5 in which they ask, “What makes a good neighbor?” The ad shows three smiling people in blue “Dominion Volunteer” shirts, apparently painting a room, presumably in somebody’s home. The ad concludes, “At Dominion, we know that the best way for employees to become neighbors – and for our neighbors to continue becoming our friends – is to step in and lend a hand.”
This is beyond ironic. It is insulting.
Most significantly, it is frightening, as corporations have been deemed the same as people by the Supreme Court, the two main political parties are in the pockets of the energy industry in all three states, and Dominion and its ACP partners (Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources) are arrogantly powerful.
I suspect the first reaction by landowners is one I would expect from most mountaineers I know throughout Appalachia – “They’ll trespass on my land over my dead body.” Violence, of course, is not the answer, no matter how tempting it might be. So, the second reaction is a sense of hopelessness and despair. That’s exactly what Dominion and its partners are counting upon.
However I have hope, especially after the well-attended and civil forum held Nov. 11 near Weston, W.Va. While that forum was primarily about fracking, it is fracking that is making the ACP possible.
I have hope also because I happen to believe our politicians are becoming increasingly irrelevant in this digital age. With the power of the Internet, we can communicate with one another as never before. We can research all the laws that the energy industry has paid legislatures to pass and governors to sign. And, most importantly, it allows us to organize.
For the record, I don’t own any land. I don’t ever plan to. However, I don’t believe for a second that our founders would have just surrendered to Dominion, their partners and their minions. I also don’t believe that corporations have the right to destroy the very earth that sustains life and, in the case of the Gearys, their livelihood.
So, educate yourself. Organize. Lobby. And stand up to the bully. That’s what good neighbors do for one another.
Finally, stay tuned, as a series of articles about existing state laws and how to stand up for your rights is forthcoming.