Last week, CBF challenged a key permit for a proposed natural gas-burning compressor station in court, defending the right of people in the historic African-American community of Union Hill to continue to breathe clean air.
Developers of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline plan to build a large gas compressor station next door to dozens of homes in this rural community south of Charlottesville. Soon after the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board approved a key permit for the facility in January, CBF, along with the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Friends of Buckingham, filed a legal challenge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond.
"There are far too many deficiencies in the compressor station permit, chief among them that the Board didn't properly consider the disproportionate health risks to those who live next door in historic Union Hill," said CBF Vice President for Litigation Jon Mueller, who together with a SELC attorney argued the challenge before a panel of three judges last week.
A recent study of 75 households within 1.1 miles of the compressor station site found that most residents identify as African American. Alarmingly, the majority of households that responded include people who suffer from preexisting health conditions that would be worsened by air pollution from this industrial facility.
Richard Walker's great great grandfather settled in Union Hill in 1885 after being freed from slavery. Growing up, Walker treasured the clean air and healthy living of summers spent on the family homestead in Union Hill. Now he fears for the health of his cousin, who already suffers from respiratory issues.
The future of Union Hill has become a major environmental justice question in Virginia.
"There is no good reason for an emission-spewing facility to be placed less than a mile from dozens of homes in Union Hill," Mueller said. "Furthermore, the compressor station would contribute to climate change and add pollution to waterways that flow into the Chesapeake Bay."
Stay tuned. A court decision on the challenge is expected in the coming months.