• Appalachia Knows There’s a Climate Crisis. Does President Biden?

    By: Russell Chisholm, Common Dreams April 5, 2022 As an Army veteran who served in Desert Storm and a frontline organizer in the fight to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline, I am certain that a transition to renewable energy is what our world needs right now. We can’t keep watching as fossil fueled wars displace and kill thousands of people around the world, from Ukraine to Iraq. Not only are these wars inhumane; they threaten the possibility of a livable future for everyone on this planet. They underscore the need to stop projects like MVP and transition to renewable energy. In the past few weeks, we have witnessed the fossil fuel industry and its political allies spread lies about the impact of fracked gas and Liquid Natural Gas (LNG). Industry cronies have been baselessly declaring that completing the MVP will help our allies in Ukraine. The industry is taking advantage of a brutal war to put profit over people. But this profiteering does nothing to change our stance that the MVP and any new fossil fuel infrastructure should not be built. Here in Appalachia, we know that we can’t afford to move backward on climate progress. Unfortunately, the Biden administration is not acting in alignment with people on the frontlines of the climate crisis and environmental justice—the very communities it has claimed to put first. This month, the administration announced it will increase US liquid natural gas (LNG) exports to Europe to alleviate their dependence on Russian oil and gas. This is a massive concern for the future of climate action because building new fossil fuel infrastructure could result in the US relying on gas for longer—despite widespread certainty that all countries should be phasing off fossil fuels, including in the newest IPCC report, published Monday. Here in Appalachia, we know that we can’t afford to move backward on climate progress. Stopping the MVP isn’t about completion numbers anymore. It’s not even about permits. We are in the midst of a climate emergency, and that means this project can never be put into service. In order to ensure this happens, we need to see bold action from President Biden. There are several ways he can get back on track and help us stop the MVP. Biden could use executive action to act boldly to stop the expansion of fossil fuels and jumpstart a renewable energy transition without having to go through Congress. If Biden issued an executive order invoking the National Emergencies Act to declare a climate emergency, he could have the power to direct agencies to review their remaining permits through the climate lens, which might result in favorable decisions toward stopping MVP. The MVP is a climate disaster; it would result in the equivalent of emissions from 23 average U.S. coal plants, or over 19 million passenger vehicles annually. The pipeline also increases the risk of methane emissions, which is a greenhouse gas multitudes more potent than carbon dioxide. Stanford University recently found that methane leaking from US oil and gas infrastructure and production areas is several times greater than federal government estimates. If Biden declared a climate emergency, there would be no possible justification for methane-spewing projects like the MVP. Declaring a national emergency isn’t the only solution to the climate crisis, but it could create momentum for more bold climate action and help mobilize funding. It could also increase public pressure on unnecessary projects like the MVP. Another mechanism the Biden administration could use is the Defense Protection Act. That it is currently drafting an executive order invoking the Act to help electric vehicle producers access key minerals for the technology to store energy signals that the administration is open to using executive authority for environmental actions. Biden could also invoke the Defense Production Act to help domestic industries accelerate the production of renewable technology that could drive down costs. Some federal agencies have attempted to make progress on climate. Recently, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued policy statements saying it will consider greenhouse gas emissions and environmental justice impacts when assessing fracked gas infrastructure. But the fossil fuel industry and the politicians they bankroll pitched “a fit because they’re worried FERC’s modest proposed policy changes might mean they no longer have free rein to build as many polluting pipelines as they want”, as Kelly Sheehan at the Sierra Club put it. During FERC’s March meeting, the agency hit pause on implementing the policy changes, despite clear direction from courts that FERC can’t continue to ignore climate and environmental justice impacts when assessing projects. If Biden declared a climate emergency, there would be no possible justification for methane-spewing projects like the MVP. Agencies, states, rural communities, and cities need clear and decisive federal leadership in order to effectively address the climate crisis. These entities have repeatedly shown interest in and pursued such action, but they continue to be impeded by the greedy fossil fuel industry. Biden says that he is for environmental justice and workers’ rights. Yet his actions put vulnerable communities like those in Appalachia in danger of being left behind with stranded assets and new polluting infrastructure in a just transition to clean, renewable energy. If he is to be the Climate President he says he is, Biden must also direct adequate and equitable funding for workers who are putting the transition into action and include them in federal policy. I served in Desert Storm. Now I’ve devoted my life to protecting my community’s land and water from the threat of unnecessary fossil fuel expansion. It’s time to turn away from fossil fuels and kickstart a just transition to a renewable and clean energy future. It’s time to declare a climate emergency and ban fossil fuel leasing on federal lands and waters. Here in Appalachia, we’re ready. Are you, President Biden? Read the article on Common Dreams


    Continue reading
  • Organizing across state lines to stop a pipeline

    By: Ray Levy Uyeda, Yes Magazine March 24, 2022 Emily Sutton loves the Haw River, with its boulders and whitewater, perfect for rafting. The river’s 110 miles flow through rural North Carolina, touching six counties in the state. But the Haw, which Sutton advocates for as its “riverkeeper” with the Haw River Assembly, is also the backdrop of an ongoing battle against a proposed pipeline, which threatens the health of the river and those who enjoy it. Plans for the Mountain Valley pipeline were first announced in April 2018. The proposed pipeline would transport fracked gas 300 miles from West Virginia to a compressor site in southern Virginia, and then another 70 miles into northern North Carolina. This last section is called the Mountain Valley Southgate Extension, and it goes through the state to allow a major stakeholder that already services nearly 30% of counties to expand its market. It is this section of the pipeline that would decimate the Haw River. The pipeline was originally supposed to be completed in less than a year and cost financial partners $3.5 billion. But four years of coordinated cross-state grassroots resistance to the pipeline’s construction has thus far prevented the Mountain Valley pipeline corporation from laying even an inch of pipeline in North Carolina soil. New county, city, and state laws have a far reach in preventing pipelines that are slated to start in one state and end in another, as seen with a Virginia state law that impacts the North Carolina section of the pipeline. With the project over budget and lacking necessary permits, one financial backer of the Mountain Valley pipeline corporation says it’s reconsidering its 31% investment in the now-$6.2 billion pipeline. The corporation is also facing an $800 million impairment charge—a financial term to describe when the value of a good or service drops below the cost to produce it. “It was determined that the continued legal and regulatory challenges have resulted in a very low probability of pipeline completion,” the funder said in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing. That, along with the additional legal and financial hurdles the pipeline now has to overcome, is likely causing other investors to see the project as more of a financial risk, forcing them to reconsider their own stake. And this cross-state collaboration is only one of many where people power is waging a concerted, and increasingly successful, campaign against fossil fuel corporations and the harmful extraction they promise. Pipeline corporations often rely on silence and intimidation—social ills that splice communities and convince neighbors of their isolation from each other. But organizers in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Nebraska are proving that building collective community power can successfully counter Big Oil’s moneyed interests. Given that oil extraction in the U.S. increased during the pandemic and that federal officials continue to subsidize fossil fuels despite scientific warnings to stop their sale and combustion, it’s clear to organizers that grassroots strategies are critical to fighting pipelines. “When a pipeline is proposed, [those impacted] either don’t know about it until it’s too late, or they don’t have the access to the information or time to dedicate to showing up to all of these meetings and giving comments,” Sutton says. When it came to the pipeline threatening the Haw River, though, she says that wasn’t the case: “We really gave the power to the people who are impacted.” How to stop a pipeline In many ways, pipeline fighting is a battle between narratives—one of money versus people power—and also one of priorities—economic benefit in the short term versus generations of climate disaster. To understand the impending defeat of Southgate, it’s important to realize that wins against pipelines don’t occur in a vacuum; generational Appalachians in West Virginia have organized in tandem with water defenders and protectors in North Carolina. Organizers from different communities, even in different states, are stronger working together when they have a shared aim. There’s a blueprint, organizers say, of what to do when a pipeline threatens already vulnerable communities. The first step is to educate neighbors and those who care about the land. The second is to make the building process as legally untenable as possible by advocating for the passage of new city and county laws, demonstrating a pipeline’s fallibility to state environmental agencies. “It’s hard to fight against major corporations when you don’t have money,” says Crystal Cavaliere, a member of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation. Cavaliere lives in Mebane, North Carolina, and is one of the main leaders working on the Southgate resistance efforts. She says organizers and impacted residents are made to feel like if they don’t have money, they don’t have power. Cavaliere’s work is to disprove that hypothesis. There are certainly immediate risks to the river’s ecosystem: rerouting creeks with pipe, sediment pollution from construction, and gas leaks due to breakages in the line. But there’s even more at stake. Within the Haw’s watershed, the Southgate Extension would threaten 207 streams, three ponds, and 9 acres of wetlands, as well as more than 600,000 square feet surrounding a nearby watershed, according to the state Department of Environmental Quality. And these threaten the river’s future as well as its past. The word haw means “river” in the language of the Sissipahaw, one of the Indigenous tribes that called the region home. “This river was the lifeblood for entire civilizations,” says Sutton, with the Haw River Assembly, the nonprofit dedicated to advocacy and protection of its watershed. English settler-colonizers committed genocide against the Sissipahaw peoples; the river and its name remain a memory of their existence. The river was also a site of the underground railroad during the period of legal enslavement of African Americans in the United States, according to the Assembly. Even today, the Haw “still continues to be this connecting source from people in the triad, in Greensboro, all the way down to Jordan Lake and the triangle in North Carolina,” Sutton says. Fighting for all people, and their river In late 2021, three years into the battle against the Mountain Valley Southgate Extension, organizers in North Carolina were beginning to lose hope. The state permitting process looked like it was going to allow the beginning stages of pipeline construction, portending an uphill climb of legal challenges for defenders of the Haw River. But then, in the first week of December, organizers pushed the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board to deny the permit required to build a pipeline compressor station, citing a 2020 Virginia environmental justice law and the potential that the compressor station would contribute to ongoing environmental injustices faced by Black and Brown residents living near the site. The compressor is a key element connecting the mainline of the Mountain Valley pipeline to the extension through North Carolina. This forced the company to start the permitting process all over again and allowed organizers more time to rally impacted residents and lobby public officials. A month later, in a case brought by the Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, and other environmental organizations, a federal appeals court overturned permits previously issued by two agencies, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, that would have allowed the mainline to devastate two species of endangered fish—the Roanoke logperch and candy darter—that live in the Jefferson National Forest, which straddles the West Virginia–Virginia border. Moreover, officials in North Carolina have twice denied a necessary Water Quality Certification permit, mandated by the Clean Water Act, to the pipeline company. And as long as the mainline isn’t built, there can be no Southgate Extension. “Southgate doesn’t have anything to stand on in North Carolina,” Sutton says. But these wins aren’t the product of state and federal agencies deciding to do the right thing, she says. They’re consequences of years of relationship building and storytelling by communities most likely to bear the brunt of pipeline construction and its ongoing devastation in the form of gas leaks, methane pollution, and water contamination—the critical first step in the blueprint of pipeline resistance. “You have to stand up, you have to say no, and you got to start telling these people how you feel,” Cavaliere says. By “these people,” she means city and county officials, representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and state agencies and boards tasked with evaluating permits filed by the construction company. Along with other organizations fighting the extension’s construction, Cavaliere coached landowners and other impacted residents in Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina to tell their personal stories in the few minutes allotted for public comment at meetings held by regulatory agencies and commissions charged with handing out permits. Cavaliere says she’s working with tribal leaders and nations that steward land in what’s known as South Carolina to prevent any future plans for pipeline construction. “We use our traditional Indigenous values when we’re organizing, so it is kind of slow,” Cavaliere says. “It’s just really about gaining people’s trust.” Learning from successful decades-long battles While fighting his own pipeline battle in Memphis, Tennessee, organizer Justin J. Pearson spent time in North Carolina with Cavaliere to swap strategies and speak at actions she had organized. From October 2020 through December 2021, Pearson led a grassroots resistance against the construction of the Byhalia Connection pipeline, which would have ravaged the majority-Black neighborhood of East Memphis. The proposed 49-mile pipeline was funded by a subsidiary of Valero and Plains All American Pipeline, billion-dollar corporations with vast legal and economic resources. Pearson’s efforts focused on the second part of the pipeline resistance blueprint: passing preemptive local laws. “The only way you’re gonna get legislation passed is with people power,” Pearson says, explaining that the legislative process also serves as a means to educate constituents and policymakers who may not know the many threats pipelines pose. “It isn’t enough to get things done; you have to have folks behind it and supportive of it to show politicians that it matters.” The 2021 passage of legislation protecting drinking water and residents’ homes affirmed that the pipeline’s construction company and financial backers would need the consent and participation of the people of Memphis if they wanted to build. In response, community members helped pass a countywide setback ordinance and two citywide ordinances—one instituting a setback and another protecting the Memphis Sand Aquifer. In July 2021, the company announced that it was pulling plans for the pipeline, proving Pearson’s community campaign against Byhalia a success. During this time, the Biden administration also revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, indicating to Pearson that his ultimate goal might just be attainable after all: “We’re collectively fighting for a future … for people, especially Black, Indigenous, people of color—people who this society has excluded intentionally. We are changing that narrative in the course of history about whose lives are deemed worthy and worth protecting,” Pearson says. It also helped that Jane Kleeb, one of the faces of the Keystone resistance, called Pearson up early in his resistance work to see how she could support his efforts. Kleeb says she provided some resources, but more importantly, she connected him to a whole community of pipeline fighters—organizers across states who share stories and swap strategies on what Kleeb refers to as “pipeline-fighter calls.” For nearly a decade, Kleeb fought Keystone by building relationships between groups who, on the surface, might appear to have little in common, like White ranchers and Native peoples. Kleeb learned that pipeline companies follow their own playbook, starting with predatorily approaching landowners and coercing them to sign easement agreements that allow the companies access to their land for drilling or pipeline construction. For instance, companies may tell landowners that all of their neighbors have signed easement agreements and that they’re the last to do so (when in reality no one else has), Kleeb explains, in an attempt to isolate, intimidate, and pressure the landowner to comply. “The only thing that stops these pipelines is if you lock up the land,” Kleeb says. Today, the organization built out from the fight against Keystone XL, Bold Alliance, mobilizes communities to fight pipelines in multiple ways, particularly by creating easement action teams. In these teams, groups of landowners are represented by Bold Alliance’s lawyers, who ensure pipeline companies won’t approach or speak to the landowners without legal representation. “It kind of takes that power that the pipeline companies had of preying on landowners away, and puts some power back into the hands of landowners,” Kleeb says. Not every pipeline battle leads to a win, Pearson says, nodding to the now-operational section of a tar sands pipeline known as Line 3, which runs through Native land in northern Minnesota. A more local risk is a bill being fast-tracked through the Tennessee state legislature aimed at usurping local control from cities that try to prevent fossil fuel companies from operationalizing. If passed, the legislation would become effective this summer, undoing the work Pearson and others organized so hard for. Yet each successive fight bears lessons, and that’s important, he says. “Even when we lose some of our fights … there’s something that has happened in our awareness and our attention and our intention and our ability to still fight on,” Pearson says. “The next fight won’t start at the same starting place; it’ll be a little further. The people who are fighting that fight will be a little more ready for the next one.” Read the article on Yes Magazine


    Continue reading
  • The ACP Was Canceled but We Still Lost Our Land

    This guest blog was written by Bill and Lynn Limpert. Bill volunteers with POWHR. There’s nothing like winning a pipeline fight after years of community advocacy. Defeating the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) was a win for our people and planet. Hundreds of thousands of people can rest easy knowing that their lives, homes, land, and water won’t be destroyed or severely damaged by that unnecessary pipeline. Nevertheless, a lot of irreparable harm can be inflicted during a fossil fuel pipeline fight. Just because a pipeline is eventually canceled, doesn’t stop it from bulldozing through precious land and water and exhausting…


    Continue reading
  • Court Stops MVP From Tearing Through Jefferson National Forest

    By: Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR) Richmond, VA – Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a decision that vacates prior decisions made by the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Today’s decision rules that the Mountain Valley Pipeline cannot cross the Jefferson National Forest in Montgomery and Giles County, Virginia and Monroe County, West Virginia. The court concluded that the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management inadequately considered MVP’s sedimentation and erosion impacts, prematurely allowed MVP to use the conventional bore method for stream crossings, and failed to comply with the Forest Service’s 2012 Planning Rule. In response, Russell Chisholm, Co-Chair of the Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR) Coalition, said: “This decision confirms what those of us on the ground have been saying for years: MVP has caused irreparable harm to our land and must be stopped from imposing further destruction. This is a big hit in the impending downfall of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project. This decision will lead to significant delays in the construction of MVP during which our movement will ensure that this pipeline is stopped. If MVP is unfit for the protected Jefferson National Forest, it is unfit for our waters, our land, and our communities, full stop.” Read the press release on POWHR


    Continue reading
  • Clean Water for NC has a new NC Energy Digest!

    Clean Water has introduced our new NC Energy Digest, with weekly news about North Carolina’s energy landscape. This digest will combine two of our existing digests into one, and explores news and events related to coal & coal ash; pipelines, oil & gas; biomass & biogas; plus utility rates, environmental justice, climate change, and more! What’s inside the NC Energy Digest?  EVENTS: You can expect to find out about public hearings related to permits for energy facilities and utility rate cases. We’ll also let you know about any relevant events hosted by NC community or advocacy groups to help hold polluters and government agencies accountable. NEWS: The news digest will focus on NC specifically but also bring in federal items that could impact North Carolinians. We’ll keep everything organized into categories for you, and provide links and brief overviews. If it’s an opinion piece, we’ll be sure to indicate that it’s commentary. Our aim is to provide you with information on energy matters that could impact you and your NC neighbors!  How do I sign up? If you are already signed up for our Coal Ash Updates or Fracking and Pipeline Updates, no need to register, as you have likely seen our January editions in your inbox. If you’d like to begin receiving our weekly NC Energy Digest, great! Just sign up here!


    Continue reading
  • The Most Detailed Map of Cancer-Causing Industrial Air Pollution in the U.S.

    By: Al Shaw and Lylla Younes, ProPublicaNovember 2, 2021 It’s not a secret that industrial facilities emit hazardous air pollution. A new ProPublica analysis shows for the first time just how much toxic air pollution they emit — and how much the chemicals they unleash could be elevating cancer risk in their communities. ProPublica’s analysis of five years of modeled EPA data identified more than 1,000 toxic hot spots across the country and found that an estimated 250,000 people living in them may be exposed to levels of excess cancer…


    Continue reading
  • MVP Southgate & Continued Resistance

    This article is by CWFNC volunteer James Lopez Residents throughout the Appalachian states of Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina have united in protest against Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and the proposed MVP Southgate extension. MVP is a proposed natural gas pipeline that, if constructed, will be built through West Virginia and Virginia, with the Southgate extension cutting through southern Virginia and Rockingham and Alamance counties in North Carolina. The MVP pipeline was first announced in 2014, with construction expected to be complete by 2019. The coronavirus pandemic, loss of required…


    Continue reading
  • Will property owners who lost land to scuttled Atlantic Coast Pipeline get it back?

    By: Lisa Sorg, NC Policy WatchOctober 28, 2021 Advocates cry foul as future of thousands of easements in North Carolina and Virginia remains uncertain  Dominion Energy laid claim to 3,100 tracts of private land along the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route, including hundreds in North Carolina, but the company is not immediately returning that acreage to property owners, even though the project has been cancelled. Now property rights and environmental advocates, as well as landowners themselves, are asking federal officials to formally intervene. Under the name…


    Continue reading
  • “Critical Infrastructure” Anti-Protest Legislation Targets Pipeline Protestors

    This article has been contributed by CWFNC volunteer Hannah Budds All images in this post are from the 7 Directions of Service Water Walk along the proposed MVP Southgate route. On May 2, small teams walked, paddled, or biked the entire proposed Mountain Valley Southgate route. 7 Directions of Service, which led the Water Walk, collaborated with the Pittsylvania County, Virginia NAACP Environmental Justice Committee to begin the day near the proposed site of the Lambert Compressor Station which plans to connect the MVP Southgate to the MVP main line…


    Continue reading
  • Indigenous Tribes Facing Displacement in Alaska and Louisiana Say the U.S. Is Ignoring Climate Threats

    By Dalia Faheid, Inside Climate NewsSeptember 13, 2021 WASHINGTON—About 31 Native Alaskan communities face imminent climate displacement from flooding and erosion, which could lead cultures to disappear and ways of life to transform, with four tribes already in the process of relocating from their quickly disappearing villages.  The Kivalina, Shishmaref, Shaktoolik and Newtok, along with coastal Louisiana tribes, are among the most at risk of displacement due to climate change. But their efforts to move, according to tribal leaders, have been impeded by a lack of federal programs to assist in their…


    Continue reading