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Exciting wins against VA pipelines

Photo: Friends of Buckingham VAValiant activists, including some with whom PSR has collaborated for years, are celebrating two important wins against pipelines in Virginia.

Virginia’s State Water Control Board voted recently to reconsider its earlier decision to grant a water quality certification to the Mountain Valley pipeline. That’s due in part to the tireless work of Tina Smusz, MD, who for years has been educating that board and others about pipeline damage to water quality.

The decision, although possibly not permanent, provides a welcome respite for activists and vindication of their public testimony, comments, educational forums and letters to the editor about health risks and impacts of pipelines.

We also salute the work of the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, whose fight against the proposed Mountain Valley pipeline took the form of a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers. The lawsuit successfully challenged the Corps’ approach to permitting pipeline stream crossings.

Based on the decision in that case, pipeline opponents say that the builders of the Mountain Valley pipeline must now seek individual permits from the Corps for each of nearly 1,000 water body crossings—“a much more rigorous and time-consuming review for a project that is already running over budget and behind schedule,” according to a recent article in the Roanoke Times.

There’s also good news in regard to the Atlantic Coast pipeline. The fourth circuit U.S. Court of Appeals recently announced a decision to block the Atlantic Coast pipeline based on inadequate protection of national forests. The court, in rejecting permits for that pipeline to cross two national forests and the Appalachian Trail, found that the U.S. Forest Service had “abdicated its responsibility” and given in to the interests of private industry in approving the pipeline, according to the Washington Post.

The lawsuit was brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center. It was not a direct outcome of the work of the community activists in Friends of Buckingham and in Yogaville, who for years have been fighting the proposed compressor station that would pressurize and move the gas through the Atlantic Coast pipeline.

However, the community activists’ work was essential in two respects. First, they delayed the pipeline by holding up a critical piece of infrastructure. Second, they brought nationwide attention to the compressor station, especially the environmental injustice of proposing to locate it in a predominantly minority community. That community, Union Hill, is made up in part of descendants of once-enslaved people.

PSR salutes these and the many activists who secured these important wins. We are proud to have helped even in a small way by providing testimony, signing on to letters, and connecting these great activists with others in the state. On to further victories!