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This Pipeline Would Cut Through America's Most Celebrated Hiking Trail

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McAfee Knob near Roanoke, Virginia, a popular lookout point along the Appalachian Trail, could look out on ugly pipeline infrastructure. Photo credit: Ksteryous / Flickr

By Caroline Mosley

The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline would carry natural gas 300 miles from northwest West Virginia to southern Virginia, crossing the Appalachian Trail and clearing trees on its way.

Cutting through one of the most celebrated hiking trails in America, the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline threatens wildlife habitat, recreational lands and the health of local Appalachia communities, while setting a terrible precedent of building energy infrastructure through our national forests.


The construction of the pipeline sets a dangerous precedent, requiring the clearing of 125 foot wide corridor of forest lands protected by the Forest Service's Roadless Rule. Under the protection of the Roadless Rule, these unspoiled forest lands are protected from road building, logging, mining and other development.

Starting 90 minutes south of Wheeling, West Virginia, the pipeline would wind south through the state before cutting east across Appalachian Trail and ending 30 minutes north of Danville, Virginia.

Through Dec. 22 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is seeking public input on the proposed plan to build the Mountain Valley Pipeline. We need to speak up and tell FERC Secretary Kimberly Bose to revise the current plan and more directly address the pipeline's lasting impacts on the Appalachian Trail and adjacent wildlands, like Brush Mountain Wilderness Area and Peter Mountain Wilderness Area.

The proposed pipeline path.Mountain Valley Pipeline

We need to speak up for the trail that 3 million Americans enjoy each year. If we don't, some of the most iconic viewpoints, like Angels Rest, along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia will look out upon an ugly swath of destruction that dissects habitat and threatens waterways.

What a pipeline cutting through the Appalachia could look like from Angels Rest, a popular lookout point in Virginia. Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Your voice is important—FERC will evaluate public input when deciding on a final plan by next spring. We must speak up for the Appalachian Trail and other roadless regions before it's too late!

A Terrible Example for Our Wildlands

Undermining the Forest Service Roadless Area Conservation Rule sets a dangerous pattern for the nearly 58.5 million acres of wildlands protected from road construction, mining and timber harvesting. This crucial conservation policy protects treasured backcountry land, but powerful logging and energy industries constantly seek to weaken the rule.

The American black bear is a common sight in the Appalachian Mountains. Tim Lumley / Flickr

If the Roadless Rule can be circumvented for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, it opens up the door for energy companies to build in other roadless areas containing cherished forests and critical wildlife habitat. Right now there are at least four other pipelines currently being considered in the mid-Atlantic region. We need to speak up now or pipelines could soon be criss-crossing the mountains of Appalachia.

We Can't Destroy Our Natural Heritage for a Needless Pipeline

A 3.4 mile section of the proposed pipeline would slice through Jefferson National Forest, part of one of the largest areas of public lands in the eastern U.S. Popular for hiking, mountain biking and hunting, it is not uncommon to see black bears, deer and songbirds among the 230,000 acres of precious old growth forests that preserve a piece of the Appalachia unmarred by human impacts.

Millions of hikers enjoy the Appalachian Trail every year, like this hiker along Dismal Falls in Virginia. John Hayes / Flickr

Building a pipeline through the trail would devastate a precious piece of American history. Cutting through the trail, the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, would be a slap in the face to the millions of people visiting the trails that wind through our East Coast's forests, mountains and valleys.

Do We Even Need Another Pipeline?

A September 2016 report explains existing energy infrastructure—including pipelines—is sufficient for meeting the regional needs of the area.

"Additional interstate natural gas pipelines, like the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley projects, are not needed to keep the lights on, homes and businesses heated, and existing and new industrial facilities in production," wrote the researchers.

Local communities and wildlands will suffer from needless destructive development from a pipeline and become even more dependent on fossil fuels. There is simply no need for a pipeline if it is unnecessary for energy needs and will irreversibly harm a precious part of America's natural history.

We need FERC to evaluate the region's need for pipelines and more carefully consider the irreversible impacts of infrastructure on wild landscapes. For 90 years, the Appalachian Trail has been an integral part of our hiking trail history. We cannot let this pipeline take that away and set a dangerous example for the rest of our protected wildlands.

Add your voice: No natural gas pipeline through the Appalachian Trail!

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

The city of Flint, Michigan, where dangerous levels of pollutants contaminated the municipal water supply, is a case in point — as is, more recently, the city of Newark, New Jersey.

The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future

We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.

"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.

One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.

Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.

Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.

These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.

We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).

We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.

We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.

Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.

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