Growing up in Mingo County, West Virginia, my life was shaped by the fossil fuel industry. Coal was integral to our existence. It kept us alive, and slowly killed us.
White House Senior Advisor John Podesta recently reiterated his support for my senator’s dirty deal that seeks to fast track the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). “The president frankly doesn’t love everything in the bill, but we support it because that’s what compromise means,” Podesta said.
Every time I hear President Joe Biden yielding to Sen. Joe Manchin’s disastrous legislation, it’s like a slap in the face. I have watched people around me die of cancer and black lung disease because of the polluting industries that run rampant through our home. Sometimes it feels like my fate is an early, cancerous death.
I have seen how few jobs are left in the fossil fuel industry. When I was a kid, it was a no-brainer that people would graduate from high school and go into the industry. Now, as the country shifts to other modes of energy generation, kids are encouraged to go to college and pursue other paths.
I have seen how intense floods and storms have gotten because of the climate crisis. As a kid, I sometimes had to flee my home in the middle of the night to seek higher ground during a storm. Two years ago, a bad winter storm caused power outages, which lasted for six weeks due to government neglect. People were trapped in our holler. That winter, I lost neighbors.
Climate change is intensifying heavy rainstorms that cause deadly river overflow. Many of us are at high flood risk because our mountains are so steep, and we live in river valleys. West Virginia has one of the highest numbers of roads, businesses and infrastructure in danger of being flooded in the country, and has one of the highest numbers of at-risk residences.
Every day I live in a sacrifice zone. For decades, West Virginian lives have been sacrificed for the political gain of our millionaire D.C. politicians and greedy polluting industries.
President Biden calls himself a “climate president.” He calls himself “pro-union,” an advocate for the working class. But that’s all completely incongruent with his support for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which threatens to emit the greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 19 million passenger vehicles, 26 coal plants and account for at least 1 percent of all greenhouse gasses from the U.S. energy sector.
If the MVP is completed, it will increase production, pollution, environmental justice violations in our most vulnerable communities and prolong the era of fossil fuels for decades. Fracked gas is a fossil fuel that emits greenhouse gasses, including methane, that exacerbate the climate crisis. Building new pipelines locks us into polluting, short-term, comparatively expensive modes of energy generation and results in stranded assets as the world transitions to renewable energy.
The MVP has targeted low-income, elderly, working-class communities because they think we’re less likely to resist. If President Biden really stood for the working class, he wouldn’t endorse a direct threat to our home and well-being.
At the beginning of May, 151 groups blasted the Biden administration for backing the pipeline. This is the latest in a near-decade long, nationwide fight. From the start of the pipeline, impacted landowners have resisted the project, and they’re not backing down anytime soon.
When Biden approved the Willow oil drilling project in Alaska, millions of young people like me spoke out. We are furious that Biden keeps approving climate-destroying projects, while claiming he supports environmental justice. This blatant hypocrisy is an insult to our intelligence.
Biden now has another fossil fuel project on his doorstep in the MVP. And just like with Keystone XL, he can stop it. Young people like me who hope for a better future put Biden in office. We are the future of this country, and we will not let dying industries and two old men keep us stuck in a polluting past.
Young people are at the forefront of the climate movement. We’ve led climate marches around the globe with hundreds of thousands of people. On TikTok, our videos about climate inaction get millions of views. Our demands for a livable future are only going to grow louder.
As a young West Virginian who is constantly let down by their greedy government, I call on President Biden to stop listening to Senator Manchin and stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline — for my home, for my future