Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is working hard greenwashing his Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) boondoggle mess.
On July 18, Northam celebrated a tobacco commission broadband grant for rural Franklin County, only a half-mile from the multi-generational Werner/Reilly Four Corners Farm, recently forced by MVP damage to cease operation. Regarding Summit View Industrial Park’s MVP energy source, Northam stated that “energy comes from different sources... including natural gas,” ignoring the urgency for rapid renewable energy transition and a recent Virginia State Corporation Commission staff report concluding that MVP is unneeded.
Later, Northam announced his “Office of Outdoor Recreation” at Carvins Cove Reservoir stating: “Outdoor recreation...improves the growth potential of our communities, …aligns with our goals on land conservation, workforce development and public health.” Our Roanoke Valley recognized and acted on these visionary ideas decades ago, enacting the CVC’s biennial valley-wide and river cleanups, Roanoke’s Greenways and highlighting the Roanoke River and its floodplain as the centerpiece of our Roanoke Valley’s recreational life. Northam cunningly chose the pristine reservoir for his “Outdoor Recreation” rollout, carefully ignoring and avoiding the nearby MVP-dirtied Roanoke River.
Northam could have stood with Southwest Virginia’s green vision. Instead, his MVP project unpardonably imposed a dirty sacrifice zone on top of Roanoke’s green outdoors vision. He reneged on his promise for stream-by-stream permitting and ignored the science that warned of impossibly steep slopes — now demonstrated by multiple landslides and sediment hemorrhaging into our streams and river. The mid-July USGS readings of Roanoke River turbidity reached 1500 on 7-15-19 — 50% above the high level of 1,000. Are such repeated violations of the Federal Clean Water Act Northam’s version of using “science and transparency if the pipeline moves forward.”? Northam’s visit was a cruel publicity stunt.
These astronomical sediment levels invalidate the SWCB’s “reasonable assurance” of maintaining water quality proclaimed when they substituted the Army Corps boilerplate for individual stream crossing permit. The Roanoke River is now unfit for clean recreation due to the bacteria-laden sediment regularly clogging the river that far exceeds MVP’s official prediction — a gross underestimate. To circumvent lost permits, MVP demands endless variances to bore under streams — depositing mountains of sediment next to streams that now enters with rainfall. Who will stop this?
Mountain Valley Watch’s documentation of violations and citizens’ repeated trips to Richmond to plead with the SWCB face-to-face to stop work have been ignored, but the extraordinarily-high mid-July sediment readings should move Northam’s DEQ to swiftly stop work.
Unlike other massive federal infrastructure projects, MVP pays into no insurance fund to remediate MVP harms that debilitate a previously-intact biosystem that rendered invaluable free environmental services to our region. MVP’s path is so destructive, dangerous and harmful to the region’s water and outdoor recreation that the only responsible action is to stop work and restore our mountains, valleys, streams and wetlands.
Northam’s kayaking in the clean Carvins Cove Reservoir took place within a three-day period of parallel events at the Elliston tree-sit: an excavator tipping over, several brutal arrests of anti-pipeline bystanders and a miraculous escape of bystanders being crushed by an uprooted tree stump rapidly rolling out of the limits-of-disturbance. After endlessly pursuing avenues of due process, citizens, largely abandoned by Virginia’s leaders, face the forces of the fossil fuel industry head-on, relying on free speech, tree blockades and time-honored peaceful non-violence.
Governor: This is what “environmental stewardship” under your administration looks like! Your P.R. kayaking in the clean Cove cannot whitewash the profound MVP violence to the land and people who are forced to host such an impossible, destructive project creating horrific scars to our Blue Ridge. Your environmental record is the worst in Virginia’s history, considering that Virginia already lags behind neighboring states in renewable energy and because MVP is an optional long-term investment in fossil infrastructure.
MVP, conceived in Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s secret deals, is a triumph of corruption, kleptocracy and hypocrisy. MVP continues despite mounting challenges — thanks to Northam’s betrayals and DEQ’s industry-friendly “supervision.” Virginia water protectors persevere while Gov. Northam should face justice for repeatedly allowing violations of the Federal Clean Water Act. How can Northam be fair when he recently accepted a $10,000 MVP “gift” while Virginia has charged MVP with 300 violations and has not yet set fines, if any?
An outdoor initiative by any other governor (not simultaneously engaged in permitting and colluding with an out-of-state, profiteering fracked-gas pipeline company) would have been welcomed, but Northam’s initiative cannot greenwash the environmental carnage to Virginia nor its long-term existential harm to our climate and collective future.