Home 2017 Races Pipeline Politics & a Call to Action for Congressional Candidates

Pipeline Politics & a Call to Action for Congressional Candidates


By Josh Stanfield, Campaign Manager, Jennifer Lewis for Congress

At this point, every reader of Blue Virginia is probably aware of the dangerous and unnecessary fracked-gas pipeline projects being forced upon Virginians. Opposition to the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines made plenty of headlines over the past year, as did the growing coalition of Democrats, Independents, and Green Party candidates who refuse campaign contributions from Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power Company. Over a dozen of these candidates are now incumbent legislators in Virginia’s House of Delegates, an electoral result that without a doubt altered the dynamics of energy regulatory policymaking in Virginia’s legislature.

But the process of constructing these pipelines continues – and our Department of Environmental Quality seems rather uninterested in exercising its authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. I won’t go into the connection between campaign finance reform, political corruption, and regulatory agencies that fail to regulate – but the DEQ’s inaction has left the people of the Commonwealth with one recourse as old as our nation itself: non-violent protest.

In comes Red: a 61-year-old woman who, from a tree stand about 30 feet in the air, has taken to protest the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and MVP’s appropriation of her land through an easement granted via eminent domain. This land has been in Red’s family for seven generations, and her daughter has taken to the trees nearby to protest as well.

Yet the combined forces of state and corporate power have decided that, in response to Red’s non-violent protest in her own trees, on her own land, they’ll go ahead and deprive her of food and water. What was originally a cause based in environmental stewardship, opposition to political corruption, and the protection of property rights has now become even more potent.

The question now: in these United States, and in our Commonwealth, do we allow what’s tantamount to the torture of a peaceful protester?

This morning, a group of activists, community leaders, and legislators – including most of the Northern Virginia Democratic Delegation in the House of Delegates – held a press conference. There were calls for stream-by-stream analyses and certifications, for ending the cruel treatment of non-violent protesters, and for the protection of Virginians’ property rights. There were also calls to protect the historic African-American community at Union Hill and, ultimately, for outright opposition to the proposed Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipelines.

In the 2018 congressional campaigns, we’ve heard some candidates speak out against these two fossil-fuel infrastructure projects. We’ve also heard candidates promise to refuse contributions from Dominion, from Appalachian Power, from corporate PACs, and from all fossil-fuel interests. Now that there’s been political movement from Northern Virginia Democrats, many of whom have not been openly critical of these projects before, it’s time for congressional candidates to stand up, speak out, and bear witness to what’s happening.

Jennifer Lewis’s campaign in CD 6 has teamed up with Anthony Flaccavento’s campaign in CD 9 to lead a group of 2018 Virginia Congressional candidates up Bent Mountain to witness Red and her daughter’s courageous acts of protest – and to witness the shameful denial of food and water to these non-violent protesters occupying their own trees on their own land.

The plan is to arrive on site at 9:00am on Monday, April 23rd. I’ll personally be contacting every Democratic congressional campaign in the state today with details, though the invitation is open to any interested congressional campaign. Feel free to proactively contact me at josh@jenniferlewisforcongress.com.

We understand the difficulties of geography and scheduling, and we want to emphasize that the purpose of this ascendence is to witness – not to campaign. Any form of solidarity is appreciated from candidates and campaigns who can’t make it. Let’s continue the momentum and make clear that these pipelines are not inevitable, and that we won’t remain silent in the face of injustice.

You can learn more about Red’s protest by watching this video or reading Laurence Hammacks’ piece in The Roanoke Times.  

#StandWithRed #StreamByStream

  • Lies, lies and more lies from Virginia’s corrupt/”captured” DEQ

    “The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality DEQ) is committed to communicate transparently about the complex programs related to the pipelines, and about all of our programs to protect Virginia’s natural resources.”

    “DEQ is doing everything under its authority to ensure that water quality, should
    construction proceed, is protected during the pipelines’ construction and post-construction

    “We are committed to holding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) developers to the highest standard possible during our rigorous plan review and enforcement process”

    “DEQ is conducting one of the most rigorous regulatory reviews in the agency’s history to ensure water quality is protected. This includes reviewing information on each specific site’ where the project crosses a wetland or stream”

    etc, etc.

  • dirich

    Appears that DEQ is more interested in protecting ACP and MVP companies instead of those they are supposed to protect – Virginia citizens. When we raise legitimate questions about how they are going to protect our water supplies with so few inspectors for so many water crossings, they do not engage.

  • From Roanoke County:

    Statement from Roanoke County Regarding MVP Activities

    (Roanoke County, VA—April 19, 2018) With regard to recent comments by several legislative representatives regarding the manner in which the Roanoke County Police Department is addressing ongoing protests of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, statements suggesting inhumane treatment of individuals is factually wrong and needlessly disparaging of our public safety staff.

    While protesters occupying tree stands in defiance of the federal court order have been denied supplies from their supporters, Roanoke County will ensure their physical needs are being met.

    In addition, routine wellness checks of protesters have been initiated by qualified emergency medical staff. To date, the protesters have indicated they have all necessary supplies and they have reported no medical concerns to our staff. Interactions with those protesting the Mountain Valley Pipeline have been cordial and well-received. County public safety staff will remain diligent in ensuring enforcement of the federal court order while protecting the health and safety of all concerned.

    Roanoke County has consistently and publicly stated that it will follow the direction determined by the court system as it applies to the MVP project. The federal and state courts have ruled consistently in favor of MVP. The Roanoke County Police Department is not taking sides in this matter. As a local law enforcement agency, the Roanoke County Police Department is required to follow the instructions ordered by the federal court as well as the laws of the Commonwealth which have been determined to permit the use of eminent domain for this project.

    The primary role of the Police Department is to ensure the safety of our citizens and enforce the law. They are not there to contest decisions made by the FERC, the court system, state regulatory agencies, or the General Assembly in regards to construction activities or deadlines. Questions or concerns about those decisions can be taken up with those entities, not the Police Department. Neither the Police Department nor the County government has any regulatory authority to determine whether the pipeline can be built or what route it will take.

    The 3/7/18 federal court order granted MVP property rights to immediate possession of easements gained through the laws of eminent domain. That order states that defendants and their agents, servants, employees, and those in active concert and participation with them, are prohibited from delaying, obstructing, or interfering with access to or use of the easements by MVP or its agents, servants, employees, or contractors. Per the court order, the individuals in the trees are in the easement granted to MVP and actively delaying, obstructing, and interfering with the use of the easement by MVP, therefore, those individuals are in violation of the federal court order and subject to charges being placed against them.

    A magistrate on Wednesday issued arrest warrants for the two individuals. The charges include Trespass after having been forbidden to do so (Code of VA 18.2-119); Interfering with property rights (Code of VA 18.2-121); and Obstruction of justice (Code of VA 18.2-460).

    We encourage people to review this information and more that is available on the Roanoke County website: http://www.RoanokeCountyVA.gov/MVP.

    • Scott Craig

      THEY ARE NOT GOING TO ALLOW SUPPLIES TO GO TO RED. I was told this in no uncertain terms by a State Police detective involved with this.