Hot Button Topics: All You Need To Know About The Fight To Save George Washington’s View

Very rarely do we in the history community get to rally behind a present-day cause. However, Dominion Energy, Inc., has given us that cause. 

Who is Dominion Energy? 

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Dominion Energy Inc. is a company that touts a pretty well documented history themselves. Through acquisition after acquisition, they can be traced all the way back to the Colonial era. They are headquartered in Richmond, Virginia and they supply some of Virginia and North Carolina with electricity. The company is also involved in the Natural Gas industry in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and eastern North Carolina. Total, on the eastern shore they reach Indiana, Illinois, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, where they have “generation facilities.”[1] The company was involved in a major business transaction in 2016 when they acquired Questar Corporation for a whopping 4.4 billion dollars.[2] This transaction stretched the company’s tentacles across the Continental United States all the way to Utah and Wyoming. In January of this year, Dominion purchased the SCANA Corporation for an outstanding $8 billion dollars. [3]

The fact that Dominion is in a position to purchase these companies at these staggering prices, suggests they are an apex predator in the energy industry right now. Certainly, they are not a company at the bottom of the food chain. In other words, they are not in such dire financial trouble, that taking up a fight with the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, is something they need to do for their own financial survival. This is a move of greed. The company posts profits in the billions in 2017:

“Dominion Energy today announced unaudited reported earnings determined in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (reported earnings) for the three months ended Dec. 31, 2017, of $1.4 billion ($2.25 per share) compared with earnings of $457 million ($0.73 per share) for the same period in 2016.[4]

The company downplays the Mount Vernon project, which in its official capacity is known to them as the “Eastern Market Access Project.” The name cleverly suggests the site is vital to supplying their Eastern customers with electricity. Though they seem to be doing this right now, just fine without the project. They also claim that the site is 3 miles from the historic mansion, and that studies done by Mount Vernon have scientifically proven the project will have no effect once-so-ever on the view from Washington’s famed estate.

In fact, Mount Vernon commissioned the Chesapeake Conservancy to do a scientific visibility assessment study and they found that Charles Station would not be visible from any of the 22 viewing locations on Mount Vernon property that were tested.

Read the study.

This is all well and good, except, I think they are missing the point. The Ladies at Mount Vernon (MVLA) are concerned, DESPITE this study. Meaning, the study was conducted, but they were not convinced in its results. Also, if you read between the lines a little, I think it is quite obvious the ladies do not believe this study was conducted with accurate information. I think, they think, Dominion has not been completely transparent with them in this process, essentially invalidating the study that Dominion has on posted on their website.

“Since learning of plans for the construction of a natural gas compressor station, the staff and leadership of Mount Vernon have endeavored to obtain more information about this planned construction and comparable stations. Mount Vernon became increasingly alarmed by the inconsistencies in the information that was obtained about this project—particularly by discrepancies in the estimated planned stack heights.”[5]

You know for me, there are just somethings that do not need to be messed with in life. I was taught this to be self-discipline and told it was a good thing. Just because you CAN do something, does not mean you SHOULD do it. What the Mount Vernon Ladies Association has provided to our nation is invaluable, intangible. They rightfully boast about the number of visitors to the estate each year, and certainly those numbers are impressive. Since 1860, 85 million folks have had the pleasure to walk through this historic home. Today, they average 1 million visitors a year. These numbers are outstanding and are a reflection of the great work done at Mount Vernon over the years. They have taken a dilapidated home, restored it to its original greatness, and opened the doors for it to become the national treasure that it is today.

What can not be measured, what is not tangible, is the experience it offers, the inspiration it provides. Millions of 8th grade students have sold candy bars over the decades to jump on those big yellow school buses and visit the 1st Presidents home. The experience I had when I was in 8th grade is something I will never forget, and it was like confirmation to me, that history, the study of history, is something I am truly passionate  about, something I want to do all the time. Walking through the home and getting to Washington’s bedroom, looking at the bed in which he took his last breathe, looking at the clock they stopped to commemorate the moment, it put me in awe. It was literally an “awesome” moment–not like Ninja Turtles “awesome”–like really, I was in “awe.” Walking through this home, looking over at his desk inside his study, and thinking to myself, “George Washington, sat right there, literally, RIGHT there and wrote letters.” The thought that his fingertips were on those pens, and the edges of those papers, that my footsteps were in the same place as his, it just had a profound impact on me. The thought, that I was breathing the same oxygen into my lungs, that this great man once breathed into his, well, it stuck with me over the years. Walking outside and seeing the great view of the Potomac river, and thinking to myself “This is the same view George Washington seen when he rode home from Philadelphia, the same view he seen when he come home from the Revolutionary War” these things hit me in a way I will never forget. After experiencing these things, it brought the man to life for me. When you read about Washington wanting to simply go home to Mount Vernon and retire after the war, when you read about him really just wanting to be left alone following his presidency, you understand why, when you experience this home, you understand why he would rather be at Mount Vernon, then crowned King.

What Dominion Energy is doing is quite disgusting when you consider it this way. How does one have these experiences, if a compressor station and smoke stacks are coming up in the woods while you look out from the patio? How does one get to have the experience of traveling back in time if you look around and see pollution wandering off into the sky from the woods in a distance? I will tell you how, you cannot. You cannot feel the way I felt in 8th grade, the way millions have felt over the years. If we let Dominion Energy develop on this land—so close to this national treasure—where does it end?

Even more worrisome, the worst-case scenario. The Ladies have expressed concerns about the safety of the “Eastern Market Access Project:”

“With limited protective infrastructure and the absence of a professional fire department in close proximity, a fire could result in catastrophic damage for residences, businesses, and possibly even the loss of lives, in addition to the destruction of irreplaceable environmental features.”[6]

Imagine how disgusted would we feel as a nation—as unlikely as it might be—if we allowed this project to go ahead, and it resulted in a fire that ruined the landscape surrounding Mount Vernon. I think anyone who has had the luxury of visiting Mount Vernon at some point in their life, everyone across the nation, should rebuke this idea altogether. Why risk it? Why risk the view? Just because you think you can do something does not mean you should. So why? Why does Dominion Energy need to flex its corporate muscles and do something that even in it’s best case scenario, could still jeopardize the experience of the people visiting Mount Vernon? If it is close enough to raise a concern from the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, then it is too close. It is that simple. Just go somewhere else or use the billions of dollars the company earns in profit to think of a creative solution. A solution that does not include risking the great work of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association.

This is not difficult. This is not complicated.

Just. Go. Somewhere. Else. To. Make. Your. Money.

Leave the ladies alone.


To sign the petition against Dominion Energy and/or donate to help #SaveGWsView, click the link below!  

It is important for you to remember the money behind Dominion Energy Inc. The Ladies at Mount Vernon are a non-profit fighting a battle against a billion dollar corporation. It is critical they have the funds to see this through and keep our national treasure as we all remember it! 

www.mountvernon.org/savetheview


Sources


[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20080914083205/http://www.dom.com/about/history.jsp

[2] “Dominion Resources Combines with Questar Corporation”. Sep 16, 2016.

[3] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-19/dominion-s-8-billion-scana-merger-dealt-another-blow-in-s-c

[4] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/dominion-energy-announces-fourth-quarter-and-full-year-2017-earnings-300589111.html

[5] https://www.mountvernon.org/about/news/article/save-george-washingtons-view–statement-from-the-mount-vernon-ladies-association/

[6] https://www.mountvernon.org/about/news/article/save-george-washingtons-view–statement-from-the-mount-vernon-ladies-association/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=news

 

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