States must uphold their responsibility to protect our waters

In late May, a Virginian named Fern set up camp on a tree platform to block construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. This came after the U.S. Forest Service barred another tree-sitting pipeline protester’s access to food, water and medical care, and a judge imposed fines on two women who established a treetop camp in their own backyard, forcing them down.

By supporting the profiteering aims of a private fracked-gas pipeline company and monopoly utilities over the clear will of the people, the government agencies abetting these projects are standing on the wrong side of history.

The movement to stop the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines has vast, and increasingly broad, backing across geographic and ideological divides. Legal challenges to both projects have traction, and a growing bipartisan chorus of state legislators and local officials is sounding the alarm.

The governors of North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia should join Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and U.S. representatives from both parties in calling for federal regulators to reconsider the improperly approved projects. And they should halt construction while this vital assessment takes place.

States also have the authority — and responsibility — to protect their own waters. Unfortunately, Virginia and West Virginia have so far deferred to the federal government’s improper use of a one-size-fits-all water quality permit without scrutinizing any of the numerous pipeline water crossings — many on very steep, erosion-prone slopes.

These states owe it to their citizens to conduct a rigorous state reviews of the pipelines’ effects on water quality. In fact, Virginia Gov. Northam promised a stream-by-stream review of water crossings on the campaign trail last year, which the state has failed to deliver.

Residents along both pipeline routes are documenting violations and testing water quality, providing more evidence that these projects cannot be built without putting people, water and ecosystems at risk. It’s time for state leaders to act.

P.S. Our April/May issue focused on natural gas fracking, frack waste, pipelines, and proposed petrochemical plants and gas storage hubs. We’re grateful to the extraordinary volunteers who helped boost our distribution of that special issue across the region from 65,500 to 72,500 copies. Read it online at

Tom Cormons, Executive Director

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