RICHMOND, VA – Dozens of Appalachian Trail hikers in full backpacking gear rallied outside Governor Terry McAuliffe’s office on June 2 — the eve of National Trails Day — to oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline. The hikers highlighted the fact that both pipelines for fracked-gas, each of which would cross the Appalachian Trail, would severely impact the viewsheds and water sources along the iconic trail. Following the protest, the hikers delivered dozens of compasses to the Governor’s office, demanding that he chart a new direction for the state.
Companies building the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines would lay nearly 1,000 miles of fracked-gas pipeline infrastructure across West Virginia and the Commonwealth, threatening hundreds of waterways and endangered species. Recent data show that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, supported by McAuliffe and proposed by controversial power company Dominion Energy, would blast away the tops of 38 miles of mountain ridges in West Virginia and Virginia, much of it near the Appalachian Trail. The proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline would likewise deforest and harm valleys and mountains along the trail, causing permanent damage to iconic views.
“The Mountain Valley Pipeline and Atlantic Coast Pipeline are both unnecessary and dangerous projects,” said Jessica Sims, lifelong hiker from Midlothian, Virginia. “They would be irreversibly traumatic to Virginia’s landscape — physical manifestations of disregard for the environment. They are attacks on that which I love: Virginia, the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Mountains, our park systems, our tourism industry, our water, our ecosystems and our history.”
“I know these mountains, these waters, these forests, and how fragile they are,” said Kathleen “Kit” Johnston, a member of Wild Virginia and Appalachian Voices from Reva, Virginia. “That’s why McAuliffe must say NO to cutting hundreds of miles of pipeline access under and through our ancient mountains, invaluable forests, and irreplaceable waters.”
Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which McAuliffe oversees, recently abandoned its promise to conduct thorough, site-specific reviews of the impacts that the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines would have on water quality. Now, the agency wants to abdicate that responsibility to President Trump’s Army Corps of Engineers, which is expected to issue a blanket one-size-fits-all permit that does not look at each individual stream crossing, and therefore does not fully protect these water bodies.
“I’ve been a proud hiker of the Appalachian Trail since I was a kid,” said Mike Tidwell, member of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. “But with the Governor’s support, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline for fracked gas would decapitate mountains within view of the trail and plow through geologically fragile areas. The pipelines would threaten not only water along the trail, but also water for farmers and communities across 13 counties. This is horrifying, and must be stopped.”
The hikers also referred to the climate change impacts of the pipelines. The two pipelines would together create annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to doubling all of Virginia’s current power plants combined. If built, these pipelines would lock us into another generation of unacceptable and unnecessary fossil fuel extractions.
“Climate change threatens our mountains, our forests, our rivers, and the entire ecosystem that we depend on,” said Lorne Stockman, lifelong hiker from Staunton, Virginia and senior researcher at Oil Change International. “These pipelines will not only disrupt the Appalachian Trail, but also fuel the destruction of our climate. With Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Accord, it is up to us to defend our future and stopping these pipelines is at the top of our pack list.”
This rally was one of the largest political acts ever in Richmond held by defenders of the Appalachian Trail.