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Jun 30, 21

Old Hills And Old Folks Resist The Mountain Valley Pipeline In Bent Mountain

Report from Appalachians Against Pipelines on blockade against the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).

On Wednesday, June 30, 2021 at 5:30 A.M., Deborah Kushner, Alan Moore, and Bridget Kelley locked themselves in and to a broken down vehicle on Honeysuckle Road, blocking Mountain Valley Pipeline’s access to the pipeline easement, a work yard, and 2 access roads. Written on the vehicle blockade are slogans including: “Old Hills & Old Folks Resist,” “Protect What You Love,” “McAuliffe’s Climate Catastrophe,” “Land Back,” and “Water Is Life.” Nearly 20 people rallied on site in support of today’s blockade.

At 12:45 P.M., law enforcement issued a dispersal order for the rally of supporters. By 2:30 P.M., they began extracting the 3 folks locked to the blockade vehicle. As of 5:30 P.M., Alan and Deborah have been extracted and are in police custody after 12 hours blockading Honeysuckle Road. Bridget remains locked to the vehicle blockade as law enforcement works to extract her. Supporters rally at the end of Honeysuckle Road.

Deborah Kushner, a 66-year-old retired mental health worker and central VA resident, stated: “My presence here today is just a small gesture of dissent. It’s what I can do to delay – even for a few hours – the march towards assured oblivion. […] My action today is very much out of my comfort zone. I’m compelled to act because we are out of time. Protecting the health and safety of our water, air and land is critical because our laws, regulatory agencies and courts don’t protect it. They don’t protect us from renegade, profiteering industries destroying the planet. […] My stand today is for a future in which we all can thrive.”

Alan Moore, a 57-year-old environmental scientist and Blacksburg resident, stated: “We act in solidarity with intention to protect what we all love: the water, the air, the mountains, and the beloved community of communities to which we all belong, the web of life. All we can do is remain firm and say ‘NO!’ when they come to take from us. […] Many who have acted in opposition to the insanity of a 21st century fracked gas pipeline have been attacked, arrested, brutalized, and dragged into a costly and dehumanizing legal system. Each of us deeply feels the ache of living in the Appalachian sacrifice zone.”

Bridget Kelley, a 63-year-old central VA resident, stated: “Since 2014, I have done everything in my legal power to stop this pipeline from the destruction it wields, but all to no avail. The hoops we jumped through were only that, hoops to satisfy the lie that we are being careful with our resources for our future existence. We are not. Our government has not been structured in a way to help us preserve what is essential to live and that which strikes our very souls with its beauty. We have to stand up for our rights. Come and join us. Currently the MVP construction is 3.5 years behind schedule, is $2.7 billion dollars over budget and still lacks final approval for key permits like the water crossings along the route. This pipeline is not a done deal. I believe that we will win. Together we can and will win.”

The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a 42-inch diameter, 300-plus mile, fracked gas pipeline that runs from northern West Virginia to southern Virginia, with a 70-mile extension into North Carolina (the Southgate Project). If completed, the MVP would be responsible for nearly 90 million metric tons of annual greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the emissions of 19 million passenger vehicles or 23 average U.S. coal plants annually (source: Oil Change International). It contributes to climate change, increased demand for natural gas (and as a result, fracking) and is entrenched in corrupt political processes. It endangers water, ecosystems, and communities along its route. Staunch resistance to the pipeline has existed since its proposal in 2014.

The failing pipeline is 3.5 years behind schedule, several billion dollars over budget and still missing permits including those needed to cross streams, waterways, and the National Forest. In April 2021, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality reaffirmed its denial of a water quality certification for the Southgate Project portion of the MVP. On July 7 2021, the Virginia State Air Pollution Control Board will hold a public hearing in Richmond at 10 A.M. as part of their consideration for an air permit for the Lambert compressor station. The compressor station (also part of the Southgate Project) is proposed to be located 1 mile from an existing compressor station for the Transco Pipeline in the Banister District of Pittsylvania County, which is a rural, majority Black community. With the extent of public disapproval and the setbacks in the project, many see the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s failure as inevitable.

Today, pipeline protester Acre is still being held in jail after being sentenced on misdemeanor charges for their role in the Yellow Finch tree sits, which blockaded the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline for 932 days.

Here’s their full statement:

We are present here today to honor the Tutelo and Monacan people, the stewards of these marvelous old hills. We act in solidarity with intention to protect what we all love: the water, the air, the mountains, and the beloved community of communities to which we all belong, the web of life. All we can do is remain firm and say ‘NO!’ when they come to take from us. Old hills and old folx resist! We will not budge. We are energized by the breath of our Appalachian ancestors and their tireless work to resist extraction, exploitation, and dehumanization. We are inspired by today’s grassroots movement that, like Mother Earth, is queer, feminist, anti-racist, socialist, and pissed! Being of the Earth, we are for the Earth.

They will never build this pipeline. Instead, what they’ve built is a community of resistance.
The pipeline brings us doom, we respond with hope;
The pipeline brings us greed, we respond with sacrifice;
The pipeline brings us violence, we respond with love.

For over 6 years our community has endured a reckless campaign of taxpayer subsidized deception, intimidation, and violence. The Mountain Valley Pipeline has lied to the public, investors, regulators, legislators, courts, and the media. No one holds the powerful accountable. The same colonial laws used by kings to take Native American land have been used to seize property for the MVP. Vulnerable neighbors and their supporters have been harassed and bullied. Pipeline construction has transformed lush Appalachian forests into moonscapes. A 303-mile dead zone is being blasted and trenched through delicate limestone karst terrain over ridiculously steep slopes. Sinkholes are collapsing; springs are muddying, slowing, and stopping; ponds are disappearing; endangered and other beloved critters are disappearing. All critters are beautiful! Stop work now!

Given that MVP’s present is a disaster, its future is a catastrophe. Every drop of misery from fracked communities will be crammed into enormous 42” diameter pipe, pumped across fragile landscapes, over 1,400 water crossings, to be liquified and shipped overseas, where they pay more for gas, thus raising our domestic prices. Emissions from this one project will equal that of 19 million new cars on the road. And ALL pipelines leak. And pipelines explode. Especially when they’re built on steep, unstable karst terrain. In 2018, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated 10 years of sustainable production remaining in the Marcellus shale formation. When the gas runs out in 2028, what will we do with unstable pipes caked with radioactive residue, this toxic steel snake? Who will protect us if not ourselves? That’s why we are here to stop work now!

We’ve learned that communities take care of people better than governments do. We are grateful for those who have faced injustice with courage, creativity, and dedication. We pause to remember our friend Acre who endures an extraordinary jail term for sitting in a tree in the path of the MVP. Many who have acted in opposition to the insanity of a 21st century fracked gas pipeline have been attacked, arrested, brutalized, and dragged into a costly and dehumanizing legal system. Each of us deeply feels the ache of living in the Appalachian sacrifice zone. Our legislators, regulators, and law enforcement, sworn to serve and protect us, have failed consistently and miserably. Former and presumed future governor Terry McAuliffe welcomed the pipeline. Then as he left office he signed a back door deal limiting MVP’s liability for damages to the commonwealth. McAuliffe’s climate catastrophe. Pipeline private security roam and police our neighborhoods with suspicion and hostility. Security snaps their fingers and Virginia state police come running, thanks to substantial MVP donations to Governor Northam’s campaign fund. Communities take care of people better than governments do. Defund the police, abolish prisons, and invest in communities. Strong, resilient, sustainable communities lift everyone.

Now is the time for healing. We reject the continued economic and judicial enslavement of people of color and the poor. Reparations are long overdue. We reject the ongoing theft of Native wealth and displacement of Indigenous people. It is time to return land back to Native stewards of the commons. We should behave like the guests we are.

We reject the Mountain Valley Pipeline and other pipe dreams of an insane and inhumane capitalism we cannot afford to carry with us into the 21st century. The MVP is an existential threat. Stop work now! We must think beyond our own generation. The biggest lies we are sold are fear, scarcity, and separation. We truly live on a planet of abundance, where in the absence of greed there is plenty for all. Acting together we can overcome any challenge and manifest a future arching towards justice and peace. Let’s build community together.

To those concerned about my well-being: yes, I do have a terminal condition that requires continuous treatment and daily medication. I pray the state does not obstruct me from life-saving measures. I try to remember to maintain a balance between staying alive and truly living. So I act with love despite my vulnerabilities. We live with compassion, intention, and joy, making the most of the time we have together.

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Defending Appalachia from the Mountain Valley Pipeline, Atlantic Coast Pipeline, and more. No new pipelines in Appalachia!

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