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Live Blog, Video: Press Conference and Rally for Water and “Red” at Virginia Capitol (#StandWithRed #StreambyStream)

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Today is “Stand with Red” day at the Virginia state capitol. Check out the press conference live stream (video below; great to see all the legislators and others who spoke out…now how about the rest of them, including Gov. Northam, AG Herring, LG Fairfax, etc?), rally, statements, etc. below. I’ll be adding more material over the next hour or so. By the way, note that this would NOT have come about today without Red’s heroism, of course, but also all the grassroots activists who have been relentlessly pushing their lawmakers to take action. So…for anyone who thinks they “can’t make a difference” or that “one voice doesn’t matter,” I present to you…today’s rally and press conference. 🙂 Here are some highlights:

  • Pastor Paul Wilson of the Union Hill and Union Grove Baptist churches in Buckingham County (he gave the invocation- “we pray that our Governor will do the right thing”; also see here for some background information);
  • Sen. Chap Petersen (the pipelines have been called into question…folks from both sides of the aisle see this as a strong issue; “yes the governor needs to be involved”; “eminent domain is reserved for Virginia…companies”);
  • Del. Mark Keam (great leadership on this issue, thanks so much! “we’re going to fight for our water…trees…air…land,” legislators need to scrutinize every law/statute to stop this pipeline; “let’s reclaim the word MVP”; why is it ok for FERC to ram these pipelines down our throats?),
  • Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (“I stand for clean water…I stand for not poisoning our soil…I want to protect our environment…we have to dig in our heels and say what’s right and what’s not right…we have to say no to these pipelines…I stand with Red”); 
  • Del. Dawn Adams (“something I take very seriously…is that I do thorough research on whatever the issue is at hand…I am particularly concerned with the health implications [of methane gas]…we do not know the long-term effects…there are gaps in the data…I ask you, is this really in the best interest of the Commonwealth to leave oversight to the federal government?”); 
  • Del. Lee Carter (“where is the compelling public interest in a pipeline that’s going to create as many jobs as an Applebees” and turning 100s of miles of Virginia into “an incineration zone?”),
  • Del. Marcus Simon (“we really don’t want to put Virginia public officials in the position they’re in…so I stand with Red”),
  • Del. Mark Levine (“what this pipeline does is encourages more fracking…a really dangerous thing…they are injecting chemicals and they won’t even tell us what they are…this is the kind of damage we won’t even know until it’s too late…let’s say no to pipelines, let’s say no to fracking”);
  • Del. Alfonso Lopez (these pipelines don’t make economic sense, we should be investing more in renewable energy, “we’re behind West Virginia in terms of wind,” “we urge the governor to do everything in his power…to conduct a full, on-the-ground, stream-by-stream analysis” and “look into the felling of trees” – “I stand with Red!”);
  • Del. Chris Hurst (the apparent lack of oversight “has me most concerned”; “where’s the oversight…monitoring” by our state agencies charged with safeguarding our water and air? “the people who should be watching this is our Department of Environmental Quality”; shouldn’t be up to landowners to make sure Mountain Valley Pipeline does its job correctly; should be stream-by-stream impact analysis; should be an on-site DEQ presence; should be an odorant put in to alert landowners to a potential explosion; historic areas “should be avoided at all costs”; pleased we “have a lot of help now from Northern Virginia”; time for our “stewards of our water to DO THEIR JOB”; let’s make sure “we control our water, we control our future”),
  • Sen. John Edwards (“I’m here to stand up for clean water”; “the well water probably will be contaminated, it’s almost a certainty”; “I’m also concerned about the safety” of these “gigantic” gas pipelines; “there are numerous reasons to oppose this pipeline”; “private profits should not trump our pristine environment”; “I call upon DEQ to extend the comment period”; “I appreciate you being here for Red…61-year-old, courageous woman [engaged in] non-violent protest” and “being treated in an inhumane fashion by not being given food and water…I think it’s outrageous…that’s not in the tradition of the United States of America, we should be outraged by that”);
  • Del. Sam Rasoul (Red’s daughter is also up in a tree with provisions being withheld from her; “I’m joining a lawsuit against the State Water Control Board and the DEQ”; this will jeopardize the water supplies in “the entire Roanoke Valley”; “we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people”; we need to ask DEQ to suspend the 401 certification during the comment period and make sure that each stream is analyzed; “we know it’s going to be a disaster…we’ve got to stop this pipeline”);
  • Del. Danica Roem (“I’m a property rights Democrat” and an environmental Democrat, and this is bad for both; “we are one Commonwealth…it is our obligation to stand with [people in Southwest Virginia]”; “we all represent the Commonwealth of Virginia, we have to be united”);
  • Del. Elizabeth Guzman (was there in support but didn’t speak);
  • Attorney Jon Sokolow thanked all the state representatives who spoke out, said this is a “game-changing day” in the fight, said “And I want to thank Rev. Paul Wilson for blessing us with his presence and for continuing to tell the story of what is contemplated to be done by Dominion Energy and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to the largely African American community of Union Hill in Buckingham County.” “Destroying an African-American community…is simply unacceptable.” And he added, “The bottom line is this: Virginia has the power and the responsibility under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act to protect Virginia’s waters by doing a complete analysis of the hundreds of waterways that would be crossed by these pipelines BEFORE these projects are allowed to move forward. We say Virginia must do what our Governor previously called for and conduct a review #StreamByStream. That is what people across Virginia deserve. Nothing more and nothing less. Because Water IS Life.”
  • Also check out the remarks by Bent Mountain landowner Genesis Chapman, who said “my community is under siege” and thanked everyone for helping him fight back against people’s right to clean water.

Thanks to everybody who stood with Red today, and who spoke out against these extremely dubious (highly destructive, unnecessary, uneconomic, etc.) fracked-gas pipelines.

Statement posted on the Press Conference and Rally for Water and Red event page.

Hello. My name is Ellie Loftus, and I’m a ninth grader at Floyd County High School. I was not able to attend this rally personally, however I needed my voice to be heard regardless.

My family and I moved to Floyd five years ago. I’ve been enveloped in these mountains, these forests, this life, for only a mere five years. Compared to a lot of friends and strangers alike, that’s a really small amount. Even though I haven’t spent the longest time with these trees, my relationship with them is equivalent with those who are rallying here today.

The news that is slowly becoming a new reality recently is painful to watch. It hurts watching as our forests, and in extension, our homes, are being torn down. It hurts seeing the pipeline come into play, and worrying about the consequences it could, and very well will, bring. As brave and admirable as she is, it hurts watching Red as things start to become more dangerous with figures of authority. This sequence of events is an extremely painful thing to watch, especially as someone who feels like they can do so little.

This is why I stand with Red. Not only will the pipeline harm the land, the wildlife, our water, and quite possibly our lives, it will affect people outside of our county, as well. Franklin, Roanoke, Montgomery, and others can feel the effects of it, too. Floyd is special, as no water flows to us; we are a source of water to others. Not only are we going to be hit by an intense negative impact if the pipeline ends up backfiring, we aren’t going to be the only people affected. This may harm people throughout regions of Virginia and West Virginia as well, even if it’s five, ten, fifty-some years into the future. Why would you jeopardize so much for this?

Also from the event page:

Last Friday, Sam Rasoul and his daughters came to visit Red in her tree. They also visited Red’s daughter, who is also living in a tree nearby. We played in Bottom Creek. Sam’s daughters built a bridge across one of the tiny tributaries we must cross to reach Red’s daughter’s tree. They had a lot of questions.

Many other children also visit Red and her daughter. They wade in the clean, clear water or bundle up against the brisk spring winds and sometimes even snow. Violets and spring beauties carpet the forest floor. We remind people to please stay on the trails so we do not trample them.

Last night in camp at twilight we talked about the surveys the MVP did to look for whipoorwills, which nest on the ground. Pitifully inadequate, as usual, since they determined there were no whipoorwills present. But we could all hear them as the day faded and the bright stars, unmarred by pollution and city lights, blinked hello to those of us grateful to listen.

#savebottomcreek #standwithRED #noMVP

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CALL TO ACTION ON PROPOSED PIPELINES
April 18, 2018

We come together as elected officials and concerned citizens from across Virginia to express our serious concerns about plans to build two massive fracked methane gas pipelines in Virginia: Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

We feel a sense of urgency as peaceful protesters who have taken to living in the trees of Bent Mountain and Peters Mountain are being forced by the pipeline companies to give up their rights to protest as a condition for obtaining food and water.

We gather this week in Richmond because it is imperative that our state government does everything it can to protect those who want to exercise their constitutional rights as well as protect our environment.

We are concerned that our own Department of Environmental Quality is not doing everything in its power to protect our precious water resources for ourselves and for generations to come.

Specifically, DEQ has decided to not rely on authority it has under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act to perform a stream-by-stream analysis of the hundreds of waterways that would be crossed by these proposed pipelines and is instead depending on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do that work, which the Corps has not yet done adequately.

Under federal law, Virginia has broader jurisdiction to undertake a state-led stream-by-stream analysis, which will be more effective than any study conducted by the Corps.

We also worry that methane emissions from these proposed pipelines would emit exponentially more greenhouse gases than those associated with combustion alone which pose a serious threat to Virginians’ health and the long-term economy, in addition to the obvious environment impacts. Virginia’s public policy should be to promote clean alternative sources of energy for consumers, not continue to rely on finite and expensive fossil fuels.

We are also troubled that these pipelines are planned to run through some of the poorest and marginalized areas of Virginia and would have disproportionate impact on communities of color, and we urge all levels of government to work with stakeholders to ensure both environmental protection and environmental justice.

For these reasons, we call on the Governor and our government agencies to:

Do all they can, using the powers that the Commonwealth of Virginia already has, to scrutinize the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast Pipeline projects for negative environmental, health, and socioeconomic impacts, and

Allow for peaceful protests to continue without denying Virginians their food and water or interfering with their constitutional rights.

Delegate Mark Keam