LINDSIDE, W.Va. — As the tree-sitters continue to stake their claim up high, residents near the proposed path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) are making their voices heard on the ground.
The $3.5 billion project aims to place a 42-inch diameter pipeline to transport West Virginia natural gas more than 303 miles to southern Virginia. Since receiving approval from the Federal Regulatory Commission in mid-October, opposition has grown.
Monroe County resident Becky Crabtree lives in an over 100 year-old farmhouse near the foot of Peters Mountain. The pipeline’s path will go through her sheep field, over Wilson Mill Road twice, then across the mountain. It is also proposed to go underneath the Appalachian Trail. Crabtree said they purchased the land several years ago to ensure their children would have future homesites.
“We picked out the land specifically for that reason. The pipeline goes right through our youngest daughter and her husband’s selection for a home. We’re further concerned because of the things we don’t know. We don’t know what lies under the surface. We’re obviously in a karst area, you can see the limestone outcroppings, we have sinkholes.”
Maury Johnson also lives in Monroe County and will be directly affected by the pipeline. On Friday, he led a group of reporters and local politicians on a tour of various locations in the path of the project, including Crabtree’s land. He is also concerned about the sinkholes, which are visible from the road.
“They want to go through the edge of it (sinkhole). You cannot put equipment on this terrain, heavy equipment will crush this. The roofs of these caves are not that deep. The DEP calls this Swiss cheese (because) from space it looks like Swiss cheese.”
Johnson also worries about other geologic factors he’s noticed. According to the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey, Monroe County is close to a seismic zone in neighboring Giles County, Va. A magnitude 3.2 earthquake was recorded on September 13, 2017 with the epicenter in Pearisburg, Va.
That was less than 20 miles from the Monroe County line.
“There’s so much that could possibly happen here. This is a constantly-shifting valley. The earthquake that happened in September, I found earthquake damage (and) rockfall. We also have highly erodible and sliding soils in this area. We’ve had geologists in here including retired DEP people. We have every reason for disaster.”
Other residents have expressed anger over how Mountain Valley Pipeline developers gained immediate access to their property. Near Wayside, Arietta Dupre said developers removed a section of fencing to place a temporary construction fence through the middle of her horse field.
“MVP has come in, they have locked my horse from water. They have blocked him away from the feeding area. All of this without ever stopping to tell us that they had done this. So if I were one of these farmers who basically checks on them once every three or four days, which is not illogical, my horse would have been dead when I found him.”
Dupre added she has called MVP numerous times since this incident and her calls have not been returned.
Summers County resident Cheryl Solie moved to West Virginia from Texas to escape pipeline construction there. Now that her region of West Virginia has been selected for a similar project, she hopes she can help encourage fellow residents through her experience.
“I’ve only been here a little over a year. You would not believe how wonderful these people are. When I came here, it was a leap of faith. People came out ‘here’s our phone numbers, here’s where we live’ if you need something you ask for help and you’ll get it. And they’re good to it. These are not just numbers here they are people.”
3rd Congressional District candidate and state Sen. Richard Ojeda, D-Logan, was present for a discussion with concerned residents Friday near Pence Springs.
“We want the pipeline because we want to have people to have jobs. But we don’t think they should be able to come in and encroach upon peoples’ property and give them little to nothing and don’t listen to what they have to say. Monroe County, Summers County, Greenbrier County…places where they raise livestock. Those underground springs are crucial to them and if those underground springs become poisoned, they’ll go out of business because they got to truck in their water.”
The pipeline’s path is projected to go through Greenbrier, Monroe, Summers, Braxton, Harrison, Lewis, Webster and Wetzel Counties of West Virginia.