by Emily Satterwhite, Amanda Tandy and Chris Tandy
What are Virginians directly affected by the destruction caused by the Mountain Valley Pipeline to do when their calls for accountable governance fall on deaf ears? What recourse do people have when a project that has received hundreds of environmental violations from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is still allowed to continue construction? What do you do when you have a scandalously corrupt Governor, but an Attorney General who might still have a future in Virginia politics?
Answer: You make as much noise as close to the place people with power are. To that end, the mountains are coming to NoVA! On May 18, rally with us at the Loudoun County courthouse for Herring: Stand with Appalachia, Not Pipelines. This is the second day of a two-day event that starts with a march in Richmond to bring this fight to Virginia’s elected leadership once again.
Virginia could use a hero these days. It needs someone who does the right thing even if it’s the hard thing, someone who puts others before himself or herself, someone who sees the big picture instead of the short term gains.
Attorney General (AG) Mark Herring could be that hero. Currently, the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is tearing a path of destruction through the heart of Virginia, across the Appalachian Trail, through the Jefferson National forest, ravaging small farms, family homes, small businesses and causing environmental destruction rarely seen outside of a natural disaster. AG Herring’s office has sued the pipeline construction company, owned in part by EQM Midstream, for the more than 300 construction violations, (That’s right, more violations in Virginia alone than the entire length of the pipeline in miles. At this point, it’s like measuring violations per linear foot of construction or like the pipeline construction company is really in the violations creation business with the side effect of a pipeline being built simultaneously.) The AG, however, has not required work to stop while the violations and lawsuit are remedied.
Being the good and decent human being that we believe the AG to be, we assume that he is susceptible to public pressure. Distance has made it easy to ignore the plight of the folks along the route of the MVP, so we are bringing them to Leesburg on Saturday, May 18th from 1-3 at the Loudoun County Courthouse.
Why Leesburg? Why now? We’re holding this rally in Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s hometown to encourage him to confront the incompetence, corruption, and climate consequences associated with fracked gas pipelines.
We have invited Attorney General Mark Herring to join us and will be making enough noise that he can hear us down the street. We request that he:
1) Advise the Department of Environmental Quality – his client – to issue a stop work order for the Mountain Valley Pipeline
2) Ask the court hearing his lawsuit against MVP to issue an injunction halting all work on the MVP
3) Advise the State Water Control Board that it has the power under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act and under state law to commence proceedings to revoke the certification previously issued to MVP.
As Jon Sokolow pointed out on Blue Virginia previously, the Deputy Attorney General erroneously relied upon a section of the Clean Water Act that applies to instances when a company applies for a permit to operate a project that the state previously permitted for construction. The State Water Control Board can and should exercise its power under VA Code paragraph 62.1-44.15 to revoke MVP’s Section 401 water permit. Put succinctly, the law is on the side of protecting the people and natural resources, no matter how many times our elected leaders pretend it’s someone else’s responsibility.
This event is one that Virginia environmental champions won’t want to miss. Emceed by Delegate Sam Rasoul, it features a slate of invited speakers including Karenna Gore of the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary; Reverend Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus; Delegate Chris Hurst; Delegate Elizabeth Guzman; Professor Emily Hammond, George Washington University Law School; affected landowners, and more. Music will be provided by old time fiddler and banjoist Rachel Eddy and the SUN SiNG Collective’s Josh Vana, BJ Brown, and Graham Smith-White. There will be activities for kids, such as face painting, bubble-making, and a make-your-own water or prayer flag station, as well as a giant water spirit puppet courtesy of All Saints Theater Company Light refreshments will be provided with a suggested donation amount.
As they say, Virginia is for lovers. People fighting the Atlantic Coast, Mountain Valley, Southside Connector, and MVP Southgate Extension pipelines know that there’s no love in the destruction of the countless waterways and scenic view-sheds that make Virginia the beautiful place that is. We are also not waiting around for our elected officials to eventually realize the urgency of the climate crisis. We require solutions, not excuses.