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VA Faith Leaders Honor King's Legacy in Pipeline Fight

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Wednesday, April 4, 2018   

NEWPORT, Va. - Faith leaders in Virginia say they're continuing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy by fighting for environmental justice for the communities affected by the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines.

King was killed in 1968 in Memphis, Tenn., while supporting people protesting decades of discrimination against African-American sanitation workers. Faith leaders say the current goal is to raise concerns about two fracked-gas pipelines with paths directly through low-income communities.

The Rev. Morris Fleischer, pastor of Newport-Mount Olivet United Methodist Church, said they'll deliver a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam as a voice for those who can't speak out.

"We're looking at environmental justice, because it's talking about pipelines that are going to affect some of the poorest communities in the state," he said. "Specifically, the Atlantic Coast pipeline is going to affect significant African-American community, a community that's been in existence for many, many years."

Fleischer and other faith leaders will meet today at the state Capitol to pray, sing and deliver their message of justice to Northam.

According to information from the pipeline developers, the Mountain Valley line runs 300 miles and the Atlantic Coast pipeline crosses more than 600 miles in Virginia. Supporters of the gas pipelines have argued they will lead to jobs and opportunities for the state.

Fleischer said a sure sign of modern-day environmental racism at play is the decision to locate the routes near communities of color.

"You know, there are certainly racial overtones in this particular plight," he said, "as well as socioeconomic components, the people being affected directly by these pipelines."

Anti-pipeline protesters have been active for about four years. But now, the pipeline companies have most of their permits and have begun cutting some trees to clear rights of way. Faith leaders are hoping their peaceful effort will add pressure to change the outcome.


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