By Michael Sainato
The Mountain Valley Pipeline will extend 303 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia, with a recently proposed 70 mile extension into North Carolina. The project is being funded and operated by Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC, owned by EQT Midstream Partners, LP; NextEra US Gas Assets, LLC; Con Edison Transmission, Inc.; WGL Midstream; and RGC Midstream, LLC.
The pipeline will transport up to 2 billion cubic feet of fracked natural gas daily from the Marcellus and Utica shale basins, "to supply the growing need for natural gas in the mid-Atlantic and southeastern regions of the United States," according to a EQT Midstream Partners spokesperson.
The Federal Energy Reserve Commission approved the pipeline in October 2017 with a 2-1 vote, with two seats on the commission vacant. The only dissenting vote was cast by Cheryl LaFleur, who cited environmental concerns and skepticism over the pipeline's necessity as influential factors on her vote against its approval. In February, a federal court denied a request to delay the pipeline's construction filed by Appalachian Voices and five other conservation organizations. Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC is currently clearing forest along the Appalachian Trail and in Jefferson National Forest for the pipeline construction. According to FERC, Mountain Valley Pipeline has until May 31 to complete tree cutting.
Pipeline opponents claim the pipeline's construction will negatively impact the scenery and pose various environmental risks in the Appalachian region. "We are concerned about the Appalachian Trail and the devastation that's going to occur to the views from Peters Mountain and all along this region," said Maury Johnson, a resident and property owner in West Virginia opposing the pipeline, in an interview. "Back when I was a teenager I used to help maintain the trail, and I heard stories from those folks who helped build it in the 1930s and 40s. The trail took a 22 mile detour just to get on top of Peters Mountain and get the iconic view across West Virginia. Now with this project, you'll see the pipeline coming at you probably for thirty miles."
Johnson noted that pipeline surveyors visited the property on his family farm, and he has dealt with them since surveying began in early 2015. He claimed the surveyors rushed the job, often missing details that he had to frequently point out for them to record. "Some of the work that has been done has been very flawed," he said. On his Facebook account, Johnson has posted several photos of sediment barriers set up by Mountain Valley Pipeline being breached to prevent erosion, just one of the several risks to water quality in the area posed by the pipeline. Johnson also expressed concern for Bentley's coral root, a plant listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, only found in a few areas of Virginia and West Virginia, as one of the species at risk from the pipeline's construction.
The Mountain Valley Pipeline has sued several hundred landowners in West Virginia and Virginia to invoke eminent domain to allow it to cut trees and run the pipeline through their properties. Some landowners and pipeline opponents have resorted to conducting tree sit-ins, building treehouses in trees on their own property to prevent the Mountain Valley Pipeline from clearing their land.
"They came through a few days ago and cut all around me," said Red Terry, a 61 year woman who has lived in a tree on her property off Poor Mountain Road in Roanoke County, West Virginia for at least three weeks, in an interview. "My daughter is also in a tree and had them on all four sides of her. She cried all day. Nobody should have the right to eminent domain for something that is not going to help people. It's to help themselves, profit before the people."
Neighbors, friends, family and activists have helped assist Red in her tree sit-in. Despite her continued protest, she said that Mountain Valley Pipeline cut down several trees on her property and have pressured her to come down, including allegedly blackmailing her sister with artifacts found on her property in exchange for Red leaving the tree.
"When they were cutting my trees and I had tears running down my face, the cops were watching the devastation also, I looked at one of them and I thought he was going to start crying. At the same time, four Mountain Valley Pipeline security guards were laughing, carrying on, and thought it was the greatest thing in the world."
Last Thursday, police formally pressed charges against Red Terry and her daughter; trespassing, obstruction of justice and interfering with property rights. The charges have now created a stand-off, as Red and her daughter will be arrested as soon as they descend from their trees. But their fight has become a rallying call among other pipeline opponents in the area.
On Peters Mountain, along the West Virginia and Virginia border, activists and local residents have organized other tree sit-ins, including setting up a monopod tower to try to block an access road to the pipeline construction. "The frontline communities impacted by the pipeline have been very supportive. The people in Appalachia have consistently throughout history fought back against exploitative industries like the Mountain Valley Pipeline," said Ashley, a tree sitter on Peters Mountain, in an interview. "There have been consistent police and security forces harassing us. Some are more hostile to us than others, but even when they try to play the good cop role, there's no doubt in my mind they are working on behalf of the interests of those building the pipeline." The identity of this tree sitter is being kept anonymous to prevent legal action against them.
The U.S. Department of Agricultural Forest Service shut down the road and the area around the monopod from the public, only permitting Mountain Valley Pipeline services access. The monopod organizers have accused the U.S. Forest Service of preventing supplies, water and food from being brought to the protesters. The U.S. Forest Service did not respond to a request for comment.
On March 20, Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Robert Irons denied an injunction filed by the Mountain Valley Pipeline against protesters to have them removed, permitting the tree sit-ins to continue.
Pipeline opponents have pointed out the powerful political influence the Mountain Valley Pipeline companies have on elected officials in West Virginia and Virginia.
The companies invested in Mountain Valley Pipeline have significantly backed both Republicans and Democrats. In the 2017-2018 election cycle, EQT Midstream Partners gave Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's campaign $25,000 and his inaugural committee another $25,000 after donating $20,000 to Republican Governor candidate Ed Gillespie's campaign. In total, they've donated $60,000 to Republican state legislators in Virginia and $56,000 to Democrats. At the federal level, EQT has donated $5,000 to Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and $1000 to Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) this election cycle.
Opposition to the pipeline has started to draw some support from elected officials. On April 16, 11 Virginia House delegates, including Lee Carter, a Democratic Socialist who unseated one of the state's top Republicans in a November 2017 election, signed onto a letter of support for peaceful protesters against the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
"We oppose both the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines," said Tom McIntire,a spokesperson for Delegate Lee Carter, in an email. "These projects do not provide any benefit for Virginia or her residents and ask those same residents to bear costs that are too great to reasonably expect of them. With every avenue we are given, we will work (with our colleagues of both parties alongside advocates) to ensure that these disastrous projects are halted."
As elected officials begin to support efforts to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline, conservation organizations are still pursuing litigation to halt construction.
There are currently four separate cases in litigation being represented by attorneys for Appalachian Mountain Advocates and other conservation organizations. One challenging the state of Virginia's clean water act 401 certification of the pipeline and one challenging the the actions of the U.S. Forest Service to grant a right of way through Jefferson National Forest are scheduled to be heard on May 8. The third case challenging the Army Corps of Engineers' Water Quality Review is scheduled to be heard in September, with the fourth case challenging the "certificate of public convenience and necessity" granted to the pipeline by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission still pending a briefing schedule in Washington, DC court.
Major East Coast Pipelines Approved by FERC Despite Strong Opposition https://t.co/qgIFQCEEKL @Ecowatch— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1508164487.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
- 6 Banks Behind the Mountain Valley Pipeline ›
- North Carolina Denies Key Water Permit to Mountain Valley Pipeline Extension - EcoWatch ›
- Federal Regulators Rule Controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline Can Restart Construction - EcoWatch ›
- Court Halts Key Permits for Mountain Valley Pipeline - EcoWatch ›
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!
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.