Appalachians Against Pipelines reports on the State’s unsuccessful attempt this weekend to break the tree sits and resistance to the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
Elliston, VA — Saturday morning just before 10:00 A.M., a group of 30-40 pipeline fighters walked onto a Mountain Valley Pipeline work site near Elliston, Virginia, blocking construction at the site. The group prevented MVP work for nearly an hour, holding banners that read “DEFEND WHAT YOU LOVE, RESISTANCE = SURVIVAL,” “ROANOKE DRINKS THIS WATER,” “STOP FRACKING OUR FUTURE.,” and “ANTICAPITALIST SOLIDARITY WORLDWIDE.” At least 10 additional people gathered near the site in support, some holding images of the endangered candy darter and Roanoke logperch. The group that took action today includes folks from along the route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, some who live near the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route in central Virginia, and allies from the northern part of the state and the District of Columbia.
Once on the MVP work site, the pipeline fighters chanted and preformed a song and dance routine. At approximately 10:45 A.M., the group walked off the site without arrests.
Donna Shaunesey, a retired civil servant from Charlottesville who was part of today’s protest, stated: “I am seventy years old. The climate crisis is upon us, and I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do everything I could to reduce the impacts of this calamity. The Mountain Valley Pipeline will be the equivalent of 26 coal-fired power plants in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. I can’t sit back and hope it goes away.”
Another anonymous walk on participant from Nelson County, stated: “I have no choice but to put my body in the path of this pipeline’s path of destruction, which is fueled by greed and short-sightedness, and completely contradictory to the path we need to be on. Pipeline companies and oil and gas supporters like Governor Northam, Mark Herring, David PTaylor, and their cronies are hell bent on business as usual. Our climate emergency dictates a complete reversal to our status quo. We have no time left to dicker about with half measures and empty promises. Change direction!”
After the group from the walk on action dispersed, law enforcement moved en masse over to the nearby Yellow Finch tree sits, which are in day 319 of blockading the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. There, they quickly arrested 3 people without warning, tackling at least one of the arrestees.
A witness stated, “The cops pulled in, got out of their cars, straightened their belts, and then 4 to 5 cops tackled our friend on the right of way road where she was taking pictures, entirely off the easement and out of the limit of disturbance.”
The arrests appear to be technically unrelated to the morning’s action. It is clear, however, that law enforcement is using arrests such as these to escalate intimidation and repression of nonviolent pipeline protesters in the interest of ensuring profits for EQT, the private corporation spearheading this pipeline project.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a 42-inch diameter, 300-plus mile, fracked gas pipeline that runs from northern West Virginia to southern Virginia. In June 2019, a 70-mile extension into North Carolina (which was proposed in 2018) was denied its Section 401 Water Quality Certification by the NC Department of Environmental Quality. The Mountain Valley Pipeline endangers water, ecosystems, and communities along its route, contributes to climate change, promotes increases demand for natural gas (and as a result, fracking), and is entrenched in corrupt political processes. MVP affects the drinking water for 300,000 Roanoke area residents who rely on municipal water, and thousands more southwest Virginians who rely on private wells. Mitigation for permanent increases in sedimentation will be $36 million/year at minimum for Roanoke, where 36% of residents are people of color and 18.4% live below the poverty line. MVP would enable the leaking or burning of 54.3 to 95 million metric tons of methane/year, thereby doubling or possibly almost tripling Virginia’s total current climate emissions (49.7 MMT/year).
Resistance to the pipeline has only grown since the pipeline’s proposal in 2014. Grassroots-led pipeline monitoring and a nonviolent direct action campaign are ongoing. In June 2019, builders admitted that the project’s budget has ballooned from 3.4 to to $5 billion and that the completion date has been delayed by 1.5 years at least.
The pipeline is in a state of uncertainty. MVP currently lacks permission to cross many water bodies on the route and has been forced to explore alternate approaches in crossing through the Jefferson National Forest. Pipeline construction continues despite uncertainty about its legality. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the US Fish and Wildlife Service are currently out of compliance with the Endangered Species Act, and must by law reinitiate consultation over six endangered species impacted by pipeline construction. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have not suspended MVP’s certifications despite the fact that it is operating without all its required permits.