West Virginia: Pipeline Fighter Prevents MVP Drilling at Meadow River

Pic via Appalachians Against Pipelines

via Appalachians Against Pipelines

This morning, a pipeline fighter has locked himself to a piece of equipment at a Mountain Valley Pipeline site next to the Meadow River in Greenbrier County, WV, preventing MVP from drilling under the river. A banner on site reads “RIVERS AIN’T YOURS TO WRECK.”

Newt has been extracted and arrested. He prevented MVP from drilling under the Meadow River for nearly 4 hours this morning!

He was arrested, charged with 2 misdemeanors, and has been bailed out of jail.

MVP’s planned water crossings have been in question for over a year. Originally, MVP intended to cross almost all water bodies using dry open-cut methods. In the case of major rivers including the Meadow, this meant using a “cofferdam” in which portions of the river would be dammed and drained for multiple weeks at a time, posing a serious threat to waterways and ecosystems.

In 2018, MVP faced legal challenges in which a federal court and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers put MVP’s water crossing permits on hold for violating the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP)’s regulations. Since then, WVDEP has predictably changed its rules to suit the pipeline company, but MVP has also altered its planned water crossing method for many or all waterbodies — including the Meadow River — to that of boring under the rivers, thus circumventing any re-permitting necessary for their original proposal. These rash changes, authorized by Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) variances, sidestep standard regulatory review and approval processes including public review and comment periods.

Separately, in August 2019, environmental groups filed a lawsuit asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (which administers the Endangered Species Act) to reexamine the devastating impact that the MVP has had and will continue to have on endangered species including the Roanoke logperch, Indiana bat, and Northern long-eared bat. MVP has already demonstrated its inability to protect water, species, and habitats along the route, as documented by hundreds of reported violations — from mudslides and failed erosion control, to water contamination, to working in prohibited areas without permits. In mid-August, a FERC compliance monitor caught MVP illegally clearing a section of wetland next to the Meadow River despite lacking a permit to do so.

Newt stated: “The destruction of the Meadow River due to the Mountain Valley Pipeline is only the beginning. Those of us who will be around long after MVP packs up their big machines have to ask ourselves — why is this waterway less important than the profits of a billion dollar corporation? What gives this company the right to jeopardize the water? These biodiverse pools of life, full of walleye, trout, and logperch, contribute to their surroundings in a way that MVP can never emulate. This is a call to action to all who know deep in their bones that water is sacred to life.”

Mara Robbins of Floyd County, VA, spoke in support of today’s action, saying, “I’m so glad to see someone standing up for our rivers. Our waterways should be considered part of our community. The MVP stands to wreck over 1100 water bodies across West Virginia and Virginia, and yet even with hundreds of documented violations, politicians refuse to halt construction. This inaction compels the people to put their bodies on the line to protect our water bodies.”

Meanwhile, today is the 1 year anniversary of the ongoing tree sit blockade near Elliston, VA in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline! For one year, these tree sits have prevented tree clearing and construction, defending the forested hillside — through four seasons, legal challenges, intimidation tactics, and more.

The resistance is growing! Newt is the 13th person to prevent construction by locking his body in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in 2019.

Donate to support Newt’s court costs and ongoing resistance: bit.ly/supportmvpresistance

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