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‘The board that ruined Buckingham’

On Jan. 5, the Buckingham County Board of Supervisors showed its lack of concern for the health and safety of its citizens, preserving the flavor and history of the area or honoring the property of landowners. They ignored scientific research, national trends and the opinions of their constituents.

The board voted 5-0-2 to approve a special use permit for a 53,000-plus horsepower compressor station for Dominion Power’s proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, to go in an area zoned for agricultural use in the historic African-American Union Hill area.

Ninety-five people signed up to speak at Thursday’s hearing. After five hours of testimonies, the board asked if anyone had “anything different” to offer.

Only a small handful of people voiced support for the compressor station, citing jobs and need for energy.

Those opposing cited research and scientific fact that compressor stations create noise pollution, release high levels of toxic chemicals, cause negative health effects and that pipelines leak, corrode and/or explode.

Many pointed out that few permanent jobs would be created by construction of the station. Others cited research proving fossil fuels contribute to global warming and that renewable energy would be a safer, more long-term solution for energy needs.

Several groups cited research proving existing pipelines are sufficient for present and future gas transport, making the compressor station unnecessary.

In response to several speakers’ observations that the vast majority of speakers opposed the issue, one board member held up a handful of papers, noting the support of other constituents. If the board truly represented public consensus, they would have also noted a recent Farmville Herald poll that showed overwhelming opposition. And they would have listened Thursday night.

Instead, their disdain for the opposition’s statements was evident: They admonished several speakers — one for including a song in her statement. Another speaker, a minister for a congregation located in the very heart of the area, was admonished for “giving a sermon” at the hearing.

Another baited a non-native English speaker about a previous statement she had given. Alternately, the proponents received nods of approval and rapt attention from the board as one offered to work on the project and another offered anecdotal supposition that since other compressor stations exist, they must be safe.

At 11 p.m., the board read a prepared statement, approving the compressor station. They had obviously reached their decision before the hearing. Their reason for approval? One board member conducted his own woefully unscientific survey by phoning operators of four extant compressor stations for input about safety. The event Thursday night was fast-tracking, not a public “hearing.”

Buckingham County’s board of supervisors will be remembered as the board that ruined Buckingham.

Deborah Kushner, of Schuyler, moved from a large city to rural Virginia 16 years ago. Her email address is drkinva@yahoo.com.