Maury Johnson: Fierce Friend of Mother Earth

A citizen activist explains his determined efforts to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline

Watch: “Maury Johnson: Fierce Friend of Mother Earth” (Time: 45:45)

GREENVILLE, W.Va. – Roughly eight years ago, Maury Johnson was tending to the work of maintaining his homestead and serving his community in a variety of ways. Then, a letter from the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) arrived, telling him they’d like to survey his land. He agreed, so long as he could go along. It was during that process that Johnson went from a welcoming landowner to a relentless opponent of the MVP.

The dangers it posed to life, land and liberty were more than Johnson could stand. So, individually, and through numerous community organizations committed to preserving the ecology of Monroe County and communities all along the MVP route, Johnson has been helping lead the charge against the MVP as a fierce friend of Mother Earth.

Indeed, recent court rulings against the MVP has led the company to announce that it no longer had a completion date for the project, a significant victory for MVP opponents. 

Indian Creek in Monroe County, W.Va.

Even a unanimous ruling on April 8 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that the MVP may bore under about 180 streams and wetlands as reported by The Roanoke Times didn’t concern Johnson. He responded, “FERC granted the Amendment Request  late on  a Friday (6:30 p.m.) so that we could not push back with a reply. The approval is contingent upon them getting their other permits back, which will take months or years if they ever get them back.” He continued, “Rest assured this approval will not go unchallenged. They still can not cross any streams by boring or open cut. I think this was a token move to get some of the  pressure off their backs from (U.S. Sen. Joe) Manchin and other lawmakers who want FERC to approve all pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure.”

He added, “We have been here before. It’s nothing to panic about. Stay tuned.”

A foggy start to a summer’s day in Sweet Springs, W.Va., in eastern Monroe County.

It all began in 2014, when a partnership of several energy companies announced their intent to construct the MVP. Claiming it would be completed in 2018, the MVP was to traverse roughly 300 miles of pristine Appalachian counties in West Virginia and Virginia. While the MVP has claimed that the project is 95 percent complete, those directly impacted by it and monitoring it claim otherwise.

And, the Roanoke Times article notes, “Mountain Valley still lacks authorizations from other agencies to ford the remaining streams and wetlands by open cut, and to pass through the Jefferson National Forest. Also unresolved is the project’s impact on endangered species.” 

Meanwhile, the project is four years overdue and is estimated to cost 40 percent more than projected, at $6.2 billion instead of $3.7 billion – if finished. 

MVP construction has caused irreparable harm to families, homesteads, rivers, aquifers, livelihoods, endangered species, national forests and everything else in its path. It has also been a land grab of unprecedented proportions through dubious use of eminent domain – as the beneficiaries of the MVP are stockholders, not the public.

Johnson has actively opposed the MVP through the Indian Creek Watershed Association (ICWA) as well as POWHR (“Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights”), Preserve Monroe and the Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance. He recently had a polar bear plunge to raise money for the ICWA and West Virginia Rivers. He has testified, written letters and participated in hearings before the West Virginia Legislature, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, FERC, the Appalachian Trail and others, putting endless miles on his car to share with his neighbors what he has learned.

MVP Construction. Photo Credit: Paula Mann

In our conversation, “Maury Johnson: Fierce Friend of Mother Earth” (Running Time: 45:45), Johnson talks about the first time he heard of the MVP and his initial reaction; the current status of the MVP; the tactics of the MVP; karst topography’s particular vulnerability to pipeline construction and presence; and, the importance of knowledge and persistence in fighting the companies and regulatory agencies responsible for construction and permitting the MVP.

Learn More

Indian Creek Watershed Association

POWHR “Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights”

Preserve Monroe

West Virginia Rivers

Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance

© Michael M. Barrick, 2022. This film is a Grassroots Appalachia production in collaboration with Mountain Media Productions

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