The Green New Deal has garnered (misplaced) criticism from people like Jonathan Chait because it explicitly addresses historic power imbalances like racial inequity. But according to one fossil-fuel funded pundit named Derrick Hollie, writing in the industry-funded Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal, this plan that takes great pains to protect minority communities would actually be bad for them.
How? Hollie, whose group Reaching America has worked with oil and gas-funded campaigns, claims that the GND would raise energy prices. This, he argues, would “disproportionately hurt people of color.” We should admit there is some merit to the concern that working-class communities, who often spend a higher portion of their budget on energy, would be disproportionately impacted by higher energy prices. But the GND’s explicit focus on ensuring a just transition addresses this exact problem.
The GND’s inclusion of social issues is important. All over the country, it is the “rural and poor” communities of color that get selected for polluting projects. And after a disaster, it becomes clear that FEMA is set up to help the (white and) wealthy to a greater extent than those who need the help far more. It only stands to reason, then, that climate action should be taken in a way that addresses, instead of ignores, these inequities.
But that’s not what Hollie cares about--he’s here to sell gas. Naturally, he pivots to the idea that natural gas is “one of the answers” to the question of how to protect the environment without raising energy prices. That the man behind a pro-oil group would be pro-oil is hardly a surprise, but what is shocking is Hollie’s claim that when he went to a protest against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, “all of the protesters were white.”
Hollie uses this as a way to play into the not-altogether-wrong stereotype about the whiteness of the environmental movement. But his choice of target here is way off. Virginia’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been a hotspot for environmental justice issues since utility Dominion, which owns the project, announced plans to site a compressor station within the historically important black community of Union Hill.
As a whole, the community is very much opposed to the project. While there are certainly white people involved in the protests, apparently Hollie missed the NAACP’s opposition. The group opposes the project because it would dump a disproportionate amount of pollution into the community.
Despite these objections, the compressor station for the pipeline got the local approval it needed in January. But that doesn’t mean the pipeline is ready to go--it’s still waiting on federal permits from the Fish and Wildlife Service. Apparently the pipeline’s path comes a little too close to some national forests, the Appalachian Trail, and the Wintergreen ski resort.
Seems that keeping ski slopes free from pipelines is more important than keeping a polluting compressor station out of a black community.
But please, Mr. Hollie, do go on about how it’s the GND that’s the problem.
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