Listen to the new End of the Line podcast, Episode 18, Hellbender. In this episode we hear folks at the “Hellbender Autonomous Zone” talk about the problems around private property and notions of ownership, and how we use collective resistance to fight not just pipelines but the systems that allow for exploitation and extraction that have been allowed to destroy communities in the North America for hundreds of years. Original air date: 6/1/18
Use the links in the sidebar to the right to listen to this and earlier End of the Line podcasts.
A May 21, 2018, notice from Appalachians Against Pipelines:
Early on May 21, 2018, pipeline protesters in the Jefferson National Forest erected a new aerial blockade on Pocahontas Road near Narrows, VA. The blockade consists of a protester on a platform 30 feet in the air, suspended from a horizontal rope tied to surrounding trees. Banners at the site read “WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?” and “STILL HERE.” Pocahontas Road is a Forest Service road and Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) access road that leads to the construction site for MVP’s intended boring through Peter’s Mountain, under the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The presence of this roadblock prevents MVP’s continued construction of the access road and boring site, which has already been significantly delayed for well over 50 days by the presence of protester Nutty in an aerial blockade on the same road less than 3 miles away.
“I am taking a stand on Peters Mountain to prevent the further devastation of these lands by the Mountain Valley Pipeline,” said Fern MacDougal, the protester suspended in the new blockade. “Cutting through delicate karst topography and 300 miles of contiguous forest and family farms seized by eminent domain, MVP threatens to damage the health and wellbeing of poor and oppressed communities along the pipeline route by threatening the air, soil, and water. This pipeline will catalyze the growth and expansion of gas extraction across Appalachia, an industry which has already caused permanent harm to many communities. We are dedicated to resisting this reckless endangerment of the land and people as long as MVP continues to operate.” MacDougal further stated that she was inspired to take this action by monopod sitter Nutty and by David Buckel, an LGBTQ rights lawyer who died in April after setting himself on fire as a protest against the use of fossil fuels.
Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC has faced significant resistance to its plans for this 42-inch diameter fracked gas pipeline since 2014. In the past few months, numerous sites of direct action have sprung up, severely interfering with pipeline construction. A total of nine aerial blockades have now been launched by various groups and individuals across the pipeline route, including a tree sit near the ridge on Peters Mountain and a monopod blockade on Pocahontas Road, which have been occupied since February 26 and March 28, respectively.
Korine Kolivras, a resident of neighboring Montgomery County, VA who has been active in the pipeline resistance, explained her support for the new blockade: “We need clean drinking water. We need to live without fear of a massive explosion. We do not need another pipeline. We do not need to hand over our lands just so the pockets of executives can fill even further. This pipeline is not a public good; it benefits only corporate interests. I support continued actions to stop this unnecessary pipeline that would ruin our beautiful forests and communities. We the people are speaking.”
Since the launch of the first tree sit in the Jefferson National Forest — and in fact, since the initial proposal of the Mountain Valley Pipeline — Jefferson National Forest Supervisor Joby Timm has made it clear the he and the US Forest Service (USFS) value the interests of a private pipeline company over that of the people and ecosystems it will devastate. From amending the Forest Plan to approve the pipeline, to issuing numerous “emergency” forest and road closures, to arresting multiple supporters on the ground while preventing resupplies to the sitters, the USFS has made its stance clear. MVP continues to claim that it is on schedule for construction, although it remains to be seen how the company intends to meet its planned in-service date of late 2018, as the flames of resistance continue to spread.
On May 1, 2018, New Virginia Way announced a new fund to support the legal fees of protestors and those standing with them. Their announcement states:
A movement is growing that defies party, region and ideology. Powered by a common belief that parents have a right to protect their children’s drinking water and that communities should determine their own future instead of having it imposed by energy monopolies, citizens are coming together to oppose the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines.
The face of this movement is Red Terry, a 61 year-old Appalachian woman who has spent the past four weeks in a tree on her family’s land to block a corporate chainsaw crew from clear-cutting. Police are waiting at the base of the tree to arrest her for criminal trespass — on her own property! Just this weekend, authorities blocked her from receiving medical treatment or supplies.
Red is one of a growing number of community advocates — mostly women — who have literally taken to the trees at great personal risk to stop this pipeline. Almost all of them are now facing mounting legal fees, as the corporate monopolies exploit every available avenue to threaten them and their families.
With a host of pending legal challenges and bipartisan coalition of elected officials against these pipelines, the tides are turning. However, it was announced last week that the Federal District Court issued contempt charges against the Terry family. This is the first in what will likely be lots of legal battles against individuals protesting the pipelines….
New Virginia Way also strongly encourages all of us to ensure everyone from local officials up to the Governor hears your voice.
Another tree sit has been launched in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline! MVP’s threats to remove Red, a landowner, from her own property have prompted a second tree-sit on her property….probably not what MVP expected as the outcome of their bullying.
Further information on the Bent Mountain tree sits from a Facebook post by Liz Arthur: “We have been watching, hiking, recording, and doing anything else we can to keep track of MVP crews and their contractors who consistently stray out of their Limits of Disturbance zones, block landowners from their own private roads, and do all they can get away with until confronted with the paperwork proving they are in violation (yes – I have physically seen all of these things happen). It is a tedious, exhausting task that the landowners and their neighbors have to carry out because there is seemingly NO oversight by any agency – local, state, federal – when it comes to what MVP is doing here on the ground. These people have battled in court for years over this, they have turned down offer after offer for access to their land (which, by the way, includes many pristine creeks that flow into the main water sources of all of Roanoke, endangered species of bats and birds, and incredibly steep and rugged terrain that is difficult to hike, much less pump gas through), and now they are forced to take time off from their jobs in order to ensure that MVP follows the orders and agreements that they have fought so hard to secure in court.
“Red, the Coffey’s neighbor, has resigned to sitting in her trees. The land she sits on has been in her family for 6 generations. The streams on their property (deemed to be cut straight through by MVP) provide well water for the community and flow into Roanoke’s main water sources. Her family turned down every offer MVP made them. However, the courts granted MVP limited access to her property (that is supposed to be subject to strict guidelines) and the pipeline will run right through it. This is the reality for many pieces of private property on Bent Mountain. Red’s sit shouldn’t be a problem for MVP, as the tree cutting was supposed to stop after the March 31st deadline put in place to protect local wildlife during reproductive and migratory seasons.
“So – why should we care?
“If it can happen here, it will continue to happen everywhere. I care because I don’t want to live in a country where my private property can be seized from me for the sole purpose of corporate profit. The proposed pipeline would deform terrain, destroy creek beds, devalue all surrounding land, and could potentially (as has happened over and over across the country) contaminate our water sources (yes, including the rest of Roanoke). I have been hiking around the proposed route. In many areas the angles and sharp turns are unbelievably extreme for a hiker, much less for millions of gallons of highly explosive gas barreling through some pipes. It’s hard to imagine that nothing would go disastrously wrong. All of this, just so a few people can make some money for a few years until this process is outdated.
“Please spread the word and help us hold MVP accountable. We obey the law, and so should they.”
“Sometimes you just have to put down the treats and stand for what you believe in,” said the protester, adding a “woof!” at the end for good measure.
This is the fourth aerial blockade to be erected since the launch of the tree sits on February 26th, which have successfully prevented MVP from meeting their tree clearing deadline of March 31st.
The protester howled that he is especially excited for visits from the Ham Sandwich Brigade.
No doggos were harmed in the deployment of this action.