Opportunity avoided

The gash of a pipeline can not be allowed to heal.Our president has said he ordered a slow-down on testing for Covid-19 so we would not notice the number of cases afflicting the various states. When it was suggested he might have been kidding, he assured us he was not.

I like to think he was being facetious, a word my mother used one day when I was young, then made me look up. I’ve never forgotten it. Basically, it would mean testing would keep going to the maximum this nation’s resources will allow, and no one will pay attention to the natural gas pipeline the Supreme Court of the United States ruled last week could carve across the Appalachian Trail and the front yards of several low-income residential areas between West Virginia and North Carolina.

You have to hand it to the Showman-in-Chief: he knows how to work an audience.

We have a short attention span when the subject is our own and our planet’s health. For years we have been subjecting the less financially fortunate of our citizens to the harms and hazards of our drive for unlimited fossil-based profits.

What should be at issue, is a $5.1 billion, 600-mile, pipeline to transport natural gas, taken from beneath West Virginia, customers in North Carolina and Virginia. To the Department of Interior, the Appalachian Trail is part of the national park system, to be protected from scarring by the pipeline. Last week, however, SCOTUS decided the Bureau of Forestry, which favored the project, had control of the land under the trail.

“A trail is a trail, and land is land,” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas, for the majority.

It is a distinction that has plagued Pennsylvania landowners since they discovered they could block natural gas drillers access to their grassland, but cannot stop the gas from being sucked from beneath their feet.

What should be at issue, is the continuing effect of coal ash on those who live near dump sites such as the one storing ash from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant, in Tennessee.  In 2008, the dike holding in place the result of decades of burning coal for electricity gave way, dumping 1.1 billion gallons of poison into the Emory and Clinch rivers.

Men, many who had not finished high school, were paid six-figure salaries to clean up the mess and load it into trains for transport to a landfill adjacent to a low-income African-American community in Alabama.

In 2020, people are still dying and dealing with the results of working and living on the Kingston cleanup and others of the 1,400 such piles across the country.

If a community balks at allowing a pipeline or a slurry dump across its fields and neighborhoods, federal courts will accept that oil and gas producing companies have need of the means to transport their product to downstream entities that already have signed contracts for gas, oil and coal still in the ground hundreds of miles away. The existence of contracts proves the companies’ need for the pipeline, not the public’s.

When the Covid-19 pandemic happened, restricting our travel and our cars parked, air pollution was visibly reduced. Gasoline prices plummeted.

Now we can see our air in satellite pictures. Traffic makes left turns difficult on two-lane roads, and the numbers on gas pumps are almost back to “normal.”

We must get off the fossil fuel habit. We allow ourselves to be afraid of nuclear fuel waste, and maybe that is appropriate, but burnt fossils have proven to be at least as harmful.

TV ads complain that any hindrance – taxation or regulation – will result in loss of jobs.

New technologies come with new jobs. The opportunity is ours to ignore.

 

Thanks for taking me along. I hope you enjoyed the ride. Comments are welcome, and please feel free to share. Please click the “Share” button to share it on social media, or copy the URL and send it to friends and acquaintances you think might appreciate it.

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