Local and Climate Activists Unite to Oppose Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Posted March 29, 2017

MP3 Excerpt of rally speech by Connie Leeper, organizing director with the environmental group NC WARN, recorded and produced by Melinda Tuhus


Over the course of two weeks in March, climate and community activists walked most of the 200 miles of the proposed route of the Atlantic Coast pipeline across eastern North Carolina. The 550-mile $5 billion pipeline project, slated to transport fracked natural gas, would traverse three states: North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. According to Duke Energy, which owns the gas, and Dominion Resources, which would build the pipeline, the project is designed to increase the supply of gas to the region, and lower prices.

However, opponents believe the gas is likely destined for export, and that the cost of building the pipeline, and the profits Duke is guaranteed would actually raise prices for consumers. Opponents are also concerned about the potential for leaks and explosions as well as the impacts the pipeline will have on their farmland. They’re also troubled about the consequences of continued gas development on the climate, since the release of methane - which comprises about 97 percent of natural gas - has 100 times more greenhouse gas warming potential than carbon dioxide in the first decade after release.

Before setting off on their walk on March 4, dozens of people rallied at a conference center near the starting point at the Virginia/North Carolina border. One of the speakers was Connie Leeper, organizing director with the environmental group NC WARN. In this excerpt of her talk, recorded and produced by Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus, Connie talked not only about opposition to the pipeline, but also about what people are fighting for: including clean energy, green jobs, and building community.

CONNIE LEEPER: This pipeline impacts all North Carolinians, and indeed, from a climate change perspective, the entire world. So I want to acknowledge that in addition to this committee, this working group, this alliance that has been mobilizing and organizing that we want to stop the pipeline and why, I just want to have the folk who have been a part of this process in any capacity, I want to recognize you right now. I don’t care about organizations, the names of your organizations. I care about the people who have been doing this work, whether you’ve been on the leadership team or whether you have not, I want you all to stand and I want the rest of you to see who has been working to provide a narrative in NC that everyday folk, grassroots folk, care about this issue. We want to stop it, but we also want to say what is the Yes. The No is stopping the pipeline: what is the Yes? So we know that the Yes is economic justice, environmental justice, climate justice. The Yes is renewable energy; the Yes is green jobs. So the Alliance to Protect our People and the Places we Live and the other organizations like Frack Free NC have been working really hard to develop this narrative and to counter the fact that we don’t have billions of dollars, but we have thousands of people that we want to mobilize and to bring together and to fight this, but not stop once we have won this fight, but to continue. So could I have all the folk who have been on any phone call, on any face to face meeting, to stand at this time. (Applause)

These are the folk who have been working really hard to organize and mobilize and we want you to be able to join as well. If you registered, I hope you signed up to be on the various list serves. I know I see folk from all over the state – that’s the other thing; even though we have a serious focus on those who are living in this place – and if you live in one of the 8 to 10 counties that the Atlantic Coast pipeline will be going through, please stand (applause).

We are with you. We want to be led by you. We want to follow your example and we want to collaborate in ways where your leadership, your understanding of the land teaches us on how to be a community with you and we hope that you will embrace all of us from NC who feel this is an issue we must fight on. We recognize that you are first and worst impacted, but there are ripple effects and we want to recognize that connection.

If you do not live in the State of NC, and you are an ally in solidarity with the work that we are doing, and in your own fights against fossil fuels and for renewable energy and economic justice, would you please stand? You know, stirring up the locals. And that’s not true, so today I want to be extremely clear that we welcome the support and solidarity of folk fighting pipelines and fossil fuel infrastructure in other parts of the country, but clearly, let it be known that the narrative that we start today from this walk to protect the people and the places where we live is about NC and eastern NC – local opposition to this Atlantic Coast pipeline. And that’s the No, and the story is yet to be written on what is the Yes.

For more information on the proposed pipeline and the walk to stop it, visit The North Carolina Alliance to Protect Our People And The Places We Live (APPPL) at apppl.org; Walk To Protect Our People And The Places We Live at 2017acpwalk.org and on Facebook at facebook.com/2017acpwalk.

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