WYTHEVILLE, VIRGINIA — I recently spent a lovely afternoon with a couple of lifetime Blacksburg, Virginia residents directly effected by the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). I’m purposely vague, because I don’t want to add to their concerns. What I witnessed was so shocking, I’m still processing the implications.
Minutes away from Virginia Tech and downtown Blacksburg we ventured into a realm of waste, devastation, and heartbreak amidst the unique beauty of the mountains of southwest Virginia. My guide and the typically wise and amazing elderly adult who took me on the tour were gracious enough to show me their beautiful patch of Appalachia and share their story. I saw a majestic stand of full grown Poplar, several springs and small creeks, an old home place complete with a root cellar dug into a nearby bank, and a view unlike any other in the world.
I also saw a huge gash cut through the steep hills and valleys with piles of timber and debris tossed over each side of the pipeline’s boundary. After seeing the conglomerate underwriting the pipeline’s idea of “restored,” it became clear why the company has already accumulated over 300 erosion control and waterway violations.
But, what shocked me most was the fact that these two had yet to be compensated in any way. The fifth amendment of our constitution is very clear on the necessary steps to exercise “eminent domain.” Any individual must be compensated prior to surrendering their land. This insanity is common in Appalachia.
Their sizeable home place of more than fifty acres lies within the “blast zone,” so it will be deemed useless once the pipeline starts up. A blast zone is the area adjacent to the pipeline deemed ground zero in the event of an explosion.
The blast zone for this type and size of pipeline is 4,174 feet, almost a mile in every direction.
Advocates of the pipeline tout jobs, access to the gas, and increased revenue for the localities impacted by the pipeline. The reality is the MVP will create only 34 permanent jobs in Virginia.
Cheaper and plentiful natural gas certainly has its allure, but the vast majority of the MVP product is targeted for export. Southwest Virginia, and Roanoke County specifically, will have access to 1% of it, with the remaining 14% of domestic use destined for the northeast.
Once again, Appalachia will wear the scars of prosperity with nothing to show for it’s sacrifice. When will our legacy be more than dealing with the extraction of natural resources, and then left with the consequences, and without the funds to repair what’s been done to our priceless beauty?
See Mother Jones Community Foundation for more information.