I consider the Greensboro area my second home since I lived there about 10 years ago before moving to Blacksburg, Va. Therefore, I was distressed to learn the area faces the same disaster we’ve confronted in southwest Virginia.
Nearly five years ago people across West Virginia and Virginia received letters in the mail announcing that their homes and farms would be in the path of the planned Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 300-mile-long, 42-foot-wide, high-pressure pipeline carrying natural gas produced by fracking. The project was promoted as an economic boon that would provide numerous jobs and cheap energy. It didn’t take long for citizens to discover that the pipeline — MVP, for short — was a get-rich quick scheme riddled with lies by energy companies. As Virginians continue to fight this assault on citizens’ rights and our environment, I was horrified to learn that my friends in North Carolina are now being fed the same exact lies.
The Aug. 19 News & Record article, “We have some homework to do …,” expressed local residents’ concerns and questions about the project’s extension into North Carolina. In fact, these questions have already been answered by our experience with MVP in Virginia. We’ve discovered that, despite numerous public hearings, citizens’ comments and concerns have been swept aside in the rush to build this monstrosity. Expert opinions that decry profound environmental consequences have been ignored.
Despite public protest, MVP’s blitzkrieg attack mowed down more than 300 miles of forest, farmland and private property virtually stolen as MVP invoked the power of eminent domain for its backers private gain. Now, most of this land lays barren and eroding because of delays and incompetent construction.
The promised jobs have been filled by out-of-state contractors. Despite an abundant supply of gas in Virginia, this pipeline has already led to an increase in gas prices in Roanoke. Meanwhile, MVP has devastated the countryside with landslides, silting of streams and the destruction of landowners’ dreams. Family farms have been destroyed, people forced off their property and pristine water sources fouled. Although MVP and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission claimed “minimal impact,” the path cuts through environmentally sensitive zones, conservation easements and historic areas, and has destroyed property values for hundreds of homes within its blast zone.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has sued MVP for more than 300 violations since this destruction began. A judge recently halted its devastation of a national forest, ruling that the U.S. Forest Service failed to follow its own protocol when it allowed construction. After the park service officials granted MVP permission to cross the Appalachian Trail, courts ruled that their decision was not in the public’s best interest and stopped the work. Several cases pending in U.S. Supreme Court question the legality of MVP and other pipelines taking land by eminent domain. The Sierra Club and other organizations are suing to stop construction because of its ongoing effect on endangered species.
Hundreds of landowners are still fighting for their constitutional rights in federal court even after their land has been commandeered and destroyed. Since citizens’ cries for justice have gone unheard and people’s rights usurped, hundreds have turned out in pipeline protests. Dozens have been arrested peacefully demonstrating against this outrage. Out of desperation protesters have chained themselves to MVP equipment and tree-sitters have spent more than 300 days blockading MVP’s route.
The article in the News & Record seemed just like deja vu to me. FERC, controlled by the businesses the government agency is supposed to regulate, has granted these gas companies near total power. When I read in your newspaper, “There are a lot of folks that are scared because they have a lot of questions,” I realized that we already have the answers for these folks’ because we have seen it all before. Empowered by a corrupt FERC process, MVP will take land wherever it wants, whenever it wants, and your property will be totally subject to their will.
Your rights will be ignored unless we can finally halt MVP with legal action. Since we have been unable to find support to stop this atrocity at various levels of government, we must rely upon the courts. If our legal challenges fail, we must resort to public protest and finally civil disobedience. Otherwise they will come. They will take your land.