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The Terror Resumes
In southwest Virginia last week, the Mountain Valley Pipeline resumed work with a new urgency. Trucks, crews and active work sites were suddenly everywhere. Work commenced on the most difficult portions of the route - the stream crossings and steepest slopes.
After a 2 year hiatus in construction, and after coming very close to stopping the nightmarish project forever, the resumption is traumatizing the region’s people, places and creatures.
The Supreme Court’s July 27 decision to grant all missing permits and allow the pipe to get in the ground posthaste leaves citizens no recourse for action. They are left with the sole job of documenting harms. Witnesses see pipe being buried underground, much of it without the rigorous inspection and re-coating industry dictates for pipe that’s lain fallow for years in sun and weather. Other pipe is being spot coated, or only the top third re-coated, some with obvious flaws.
Blasting is taking place mere yards from occupied homes, sometimes without warning – another violation - shocking residents and leaving them shaken, as well as their houses and animals.
Workers are rumored to be working 12 hour shifts and longer, 6 days a week or more, working in rugged terrain in summer heat, performing difficult and precision work. The probability of human error is high. This is the company that accrued hundreds of violations and paid millions of dollars while constructing the less difficult portions of the route.
The mood here is bleak, but frontline work within the community continues, diligently monitoring waterways both upstream and downstream of work sites to document changes in sedimentation levels. Photographic documentation continues to preserve the plight of endangered species’ disappearing habitat along the route. Resistance relentlessly surfaces even on the mountaintops, halting the destruction for as many hours as possible. Any delay is a victory, even if it’s just clogging construction traffic for a few minutes.
Witness to devastation isn’t new in these oldest of the continent’s mountains, where for centuries the land, water and communities have been considered expendable. Juxtapositions are heart wrenching. In the historic district that is the town of Newport, clearing the 125’ right-of-way through the town began last Friday. A soil scientist based there bemoaned the event as making good soil into mud.
Promises to return landscapes and ridge-tops to their original contours haven’t come to fruition. During previous construction, soil spoils piles were mixed together, sacrificing precious topsoil. Pipe trenches contain large rocks despite the 4” maximum size limit to prevent damage to pipe.
Endangered species have no status here. Streams that had been remediated to improve the habitat for the Roanoke logperch and the Candy Darter are slated to be blasted through or under. Bottom Creek, the only Tier 3 stream on private property in the state of Virginia, is under imminent threat of being breached by construction.
The pipeline is approaching Peters Mountain, a 53 mile long sentinel that divides Virginia and West Virginia. MVP’s plan is to bore 600’ through the top of the mountain, just 100’ below the Appalachian Trail.
But opposition continues to appear on mountaintops, right of way corridors and access roads. These are the options open to us.
This weekend’s Protect Our Water Heritage Rights event if you’re anywhere near: https://actionnetwork.org/events/we-are-these-mountains-a-stopmvp-weekend?clear_id=true
And an ongoing invitation for people near and far to help: https://www.aapsolidarity.org/
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