By pontoon, Blue Virginia
Free Nelson attended Thursday night’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) meeting in the Shenandoah Valley. The meeting was designed to hear concerns from the public regarding the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), and to contribute input towards the Environmental impact study (EIS) FERC is required to conduct.
What we found truly astonishing about this meeting was the lengths to which Dominion Power continues to sink in its efforts to create the appearance of support for its ill-conceived, dirty fossil fuel pipeline. Some of the tactics used by Dominion are eerily similar to a 6-year-old throwing a temper tantrum, and they’re just as unattractive.
After inviting folks who do not live in the affected areas of the proposed ACP, Dominion’s uninformed “plants” attended a pre-meeting meal supplied by Dominion. To be allowed to speak, everyone had to stand in line to receive a speaker number. Everyone, that is, except – surprise, surprise! – Dominion supporters. One Dominion supporter even tried and failed to cut into the front of the line. After a commotion, he was summarily sent to the back, grumbling all the way.
When grassroots activists arrived at Stuarts Draft High School at 5 pm, Dominion was already present and had put up its “clean energy” signs. Friends of Augusta and Augusta County Alliance volunteers put up two large “No Pipeline” signs, dwarfing Dominion’s yard signs. Dominion reps came out and added a dozen more yard signs. Grassroots activists continued by putting up yard signs — this time, a set of No Pipeline signs harkening back to the old “Burma Shave” signs.
Again, Dominion reps appeared with more “Clean Energy” signs, placing them so as to block the message of the Burma Shave signs. Volunteer Tom Harvey insisted Dominion move those signs from blocking our message. As both the activists and Dominion countered with signs, Mr. Harvey approached a Dominion employee stating he had 1,000 signs in his vehicle. He suggested he could put them all up or they could call a truce, which the Dominion representative readily agreed to.
A few minutes later, a Dominion representative was seen removing him from the line, and replacing him with a Dominion staffer, a place holder of sorts, who signed the “plant” up to speak while he was enjoying Dominion’s dinner. Note that grassroots activists attempted to enter the Dominion dinner, but were turned away and told it was for Dominion supporters only.
The “plants” testifying before FERC started their remarks either with the words, “I was told,” or simply repeated Dominion’s talking points verbatim from their printed propaganda. One man from West Virginia stated that his farm is leased for fracking wells, and how nicely he is treated by the gas company. We noted that he chooses not to live on that farm, however, since he now claims to be a resident of Augusta County, Virginia.
Clearly, these folks were brought in by Dominion to take time away from landowners and community members who have legitimate concerns. While not unexpected, it is a deplorable tactic used to stop, or at least discourage, those opposed to the pipeline from speaking. As occurred in Nelson Wednesday night, the Thursday FERC meeting was shut down well before all were allowed to share their concerns.
Even with the blatant attempts to tilt the meeting in Domnion’s favor, what’s amazing is that only 16 of the 64 speakers spoke in favor of the proposed ACP. We wonder if Dominion would have had any supporters at the meeting at all had they not brought their support in from other jurisdictions and paid them off by giving them a free meal.