6 Banks Behind the Mountain Valley Pipeline
Residents of Virginia and West Virginia opened up a new front Thursday in their fight to stop the 301-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline: targeting the major U.S. "main street" banks on tap to finance the fracked-gas project's $3.5 billion price tag.
Landowners along the pipeline route are calling on customers to move their money out of the top six U.S. banks behind the pipeline—led by Bank of America and Wells Fargo. The banks are identified in a new analysis released today by Oil Change International that examines how the pipeline will be financed.
The landowner and citizens' groups Bold Appalachia and Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR) launched Thursday's call to action and are planning an upcoming "Defund MVP" week of action in Virginia and West Virginia from June 19 to June 23.
"Now is the time to pull out our pocketbooks, put our money where our mouth is and divest from the banks financing this pipeline," said Carolyn Reilly, a regional pipeline fighter with Bold Alliance whose farm is in the path of the proposed pipeline in Rocky Mount, Virginia.
"The Mountain Valley Pipeline is focused solely on making money, setting private financial interest as the top priority. As farmers and landowners, we say 'no' to a greedy system that supports eminent domain for private gain while threatening our clean water and land."
The "Defund MVP" campaign joins a growing movement of communities, tribes and cities across North America that are targeting the financing behind dirty pipeline projects, from Dakota Access to Keystone XL, and putting increasing pressure on major banks to move money flows away from risky fossil fuel projects that threaten the climate and communities.
The Oil Change analysis draws a direct link between the banks providing corporate-level financing to pipeline company EQT Midstream Partners (EQM) and the money that will fuel the Mountain Valley Pipeline. EQM, the main driver of the project and the largest investor in it, plans to rely on corporate-level financing, rather than direct loans, to fund the pipeline.
"Our analysis shows that Bank of America and Wells Fargo are signed up to funnel the most money into this polluting pipeline," said Lorne Stockman, a senior research analyst at Oil Change International who co-authored the briefing. "These same banks are embroiled in a backlash over their funding for the Dakota Access Pipeline and major tar sands pipelines. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is another black eye. The customer backlash will not let up unless banks heed the call to defund dirty pipelines."
Bank of America is providing more than $141 million in funding to EQM while Wells Fargo is the lead arranger of the company's credit facility. PNC, SunTrust, Bank of the West (via parent company BNP Paribas) and U.S. Bank are also significant investors in EQM's key sources of pipeline finance. While U.S. Bank recently pledged to end project-level loans for oil and gas pipelines, it remains a key corporate-level financer of EQM and several other pipeline companies.
The Oil Change briefing also notes that two banks with significant customer bases across Virginia—Union Bank & Trust and BB&T—are providing a comparatively small but direct loan to the Mountain Valley Pipeline through Roanoke-based RGC Midstream.
"The Mountain Valley Pipeline route is going through the middle of my property, Doe Creek Farm," said Georgia Haverty of Giles County, Virginia. "There are four businesses that would be directly and adversely affected. I will never put a cent of any of my businesses in BB&T, Bank of America, Wells Fargo or Union Bank & Trust. I will also post signs calling out all of these banks for the thousands of visitors and customers who visit each year and who love this land. They need to know."
The Mountain Valley Pipeline would open up a new spigot to increase the flow of gas from fracking operations in the Appalachian Basin. It threatens communities' drinking water, pristine forests, farms and historic places along the route from northwestern West Virginia to south central Virginia. A previous Oil Change analysis showed the project would be responsible for close to 90 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, equivalent to 26 coal plants or 19 million vehicles on the road.
The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.
"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."
The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.
They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.
They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.
But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.
"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.
What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.
It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.
To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.
First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.
Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.
University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.
"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."
Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.
"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.
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