Quakers Resist the Mountain Valley Pipeline

By Barb Adams and Hayley Hathaway
Dominion Energy Protest Rally in Richmond, VA. Dominion is Virginia’s largest utility and leads the coalition building the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Photo: Will Solis

“I DON’T REALLY think about hope,” says Jenny Chapman, a member of Roanoke Friends Meeting in Virginia. “I suppose I’m just pragmatic and think about what needs to happen next, evaluate that, consider next steps.” Hope can be a difficult concept when fighting against the construction of a 42-inch pipeline that would carry 2 billion cubic feet of fracked natural gas through your backyard every day.

Jenny and her community form part of the campaign against the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), which, if allowed, will extend for 303 miles starting from well sites in northwestern West Virginia and traveling through southern Virginia with an extension line into North Carolina. The pipe itself is the largest ever used in the industry. The pipeline will be built and owned by a coalition of companies called the Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC, which includes EQT Midstream Partners, who will operate it.

The MVP is expected to pump at high pressure and move gas mixed with highly toxic chemicals, silica dust, and diesel sludge. Besides the destruction to land and forests in the installation process, and air pollution from compressor stations, pipelines are well-documented to leak and explode.

Construction and destruction have begun, but with stops and starts due to the company’s own negligence and to pressure from activists. At the end of June, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily halted some of the construction in western Virginia due to concerns with the developers’ inability to comply with their federal permit.

Jenny lives on Bent Mountain in rural southwest Virginia where she and her husband raised their children. Her neighbors are Red Terry and her daughter, Minor, who sat for 34 days in the trees on their property that were scheduled to be cut down due to eminent domain. In a bold and faithful act of resistance, they endured freezing weather, snow, and wind storms, while local police prevented supporters from providing food, water or supplies. Faced with court orders and $1000-day fines, the tree sitters decided to come down.

To support the tree sitters and protest the pipeline, Roanoake Friends Meeting and Quaker Earthcare Witness approved Minutes of Concern this spring.

At the end of July, numerous frontline campaigns hosted a week of resistance targeting the banks that finance these pipelines, the permitting entities, and contractors.  Jenny reminds us that “anti-terrorism agencies have been working to coordinate with police, monitoring pipeline protestor’s response and organizational affiliations.”

In this issue of BeFriending Creation Jenny reflects on the power of her faith to guide her to act, offering us insights to bring home to our communities. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is one of dozens being planned and built around the US.  What’s happening in your backyard?

Read the Minutes of Concern below and read the full interview with  Jenny here.