Union Hill sees connection in racist photo and governor's actions

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Members of the Union Hill community say they believe Governor Ralph Northam's actions that led to the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board approving a permit for a compressor station in their majority black town, showed the racism allegedly revealed in a photo found on his grad school yearbook page.

In November 2018, Northam removed two members, Rebecca Rubin and Samuel Bleicher, from the State Air Pollution Control Board.

They had questioned if the compressor station Dominion Energy wanted to build in Union Hill was a form of environmental injustice.

In January, the permit for the compressor station to be built was approved with two new board members, though they did not vote on it.

“They were willing to stand up for what they believed to be right," said Ruby Laury, a resident of Union Hill. “And Governor Northam, he failed to stand up for us, his constituents."

She said she immediately thought about Northam's actions in November when she saw his 1984 yearbook photo in the news. She also said it is clear that allowing companies to build plants and pipelines in minority communities is a form of racism.

"Any kind of plant they seem to place in communities, people of color, poor people. It's just there. It's clear as black and white,” said Ruby. “They put it where they think they're not going to get a lot of flack."

Her husband, John Laury, said there is one way that can prove Northam stands for black and brown communities.

"Reverse his decision, because this project is not for the benefit of the people, nor for our environment,” he said. “That will prove that he is what he's saying if he's backing it with his action."

Both John and Ruby said they want to give Northam the benefit of the doubt, but cannot support racism being in power.

"I'm sure that Governor Northam is not the only one, but knowingly, people like that should not be put in power because they're not for the people," said Ruby.

Ruby said she believes Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax is for the people and that he would help stop the compressor station and the pipeline if he were to become governor.

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