Category Archives: People

West Virginians and Pennsylvanians Standing in Solidarity Against Natural Gas Industry

Communities in midst of fracking boom to hold ‘Hands Across Our Land’ events

By Michael M. Barrick

WEST UNION, W.Va. – Here, where the odors, sights, sounds and overall destruction of fracking is most felt, residents are participating in “Hands Across Our Land,” a national action being held in locations throughout Appalachia and beyond in opposition to fracking and the related development of the natural gas industry.

According to Wayne Woods, president of the Doddridge County Watershed Association (DCWA), that group “ … and concerned citizens from all over North Central West Virginia will meet Tuesday August 18th at 6 p.m. for the Hands Across Our Land event. It will be held at the West Union Park in West Union.”

Meathouse Fork in Doddridge County with heavy sediment resulting from pipeline construction

Meathouse Fork in Doddridge County with heavy sediment resulting from pipeline construction

Woods explained the significance of the location, noting, “The park is located along Middle Island Creek that has been impacted by gas drilling in the Doddridge County area. We are conducting this solidarity action to let the fossil fuel industry and community leaders know that while we are separate grassroots organization we stand with each other in opposition to the building of new fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Autumn Long, a resident in neighboring Harrison County intends to participate. She shared, “This day of action brings together communities that are geographically dispersed but united by exploitation suffered at the hands of the oil and gas industry. Fossil fuel development is destroying our environment, impacting our health, and degrading our quality of life. By publicly linking hands across our land, we are demonstrating opposition to this exploitation and solidarity in our shared struggle.”

Stonewall Gathering Pipeline construction as seen from a hilltop in Doddridge County, W.Va.

Stonewall Gathering Pipeline construction as seen from a hilltop in Doddridge County, W.Va.

Meanwhile, further north, Pennsylvanians and West Virginians will join hands at Point Marion, Pa., near the boundary between the two states. Southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia are situation in the heart of the Marcellus Shale boom and thus are experiencing public health and safety threats associated with the industry, as well as ecological destruction.

Duane Nichols is the Hands Across Our Land coordinator for the Mon Valley Clean Air Coalition. He said, “We will be meeting on the Monongahela River Bridge in Pt. Marion at12:30 p.m. and again at 6:30 p.m. Private citizens and members of other organizations from northern West Virginia will join those from Greene, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland Counties in Pennsylvania. We will form a chain across the bridge, thus joining ‘Hands Across Our Land.’”

Learn more:
For the Doddridge County event, visit the DCWA Facebook page or its page for this event.
For the state line event, contact Nichols at Duane330@aol.com.

Related Articles:
Appalachian Residents Joining Hands in Opposition to Pipeline Development and Fracking
A Dirty Dozen Reasons to Oppose Fracking
Fracking Poses Threats to Public Health

© The Appalachian Preservation Project, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. If you find this writing of value, we hope that you will consider support our independent work by becoming a member of the Appalachian Preservation Project. By doing so, you will be supporting not only this website, but also our other outreaches, programs and partnerships.

We are on Facebook
On Twitter: @appchronicle

Advertisements

Appalachian Residents Joining Hands in Opposition to Pipeline Development and Fracking

Hands Across Our Land is a grassroots gathering scheduled for August 18

By Michael M. Barrick

NELSON COUNTY, Va. – A grassroots uprising among people from across Appalachia opposed to the development of further natural gas infrastructure and the related extractive process of fracking will culminate on Tuesday, Aug. 18th at communities in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and beyond in an event being called “Hands Across Our Land.”

Proposed Route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Proposed Route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Sharon Ponton, co-chair of Free Nelson, a grassroots group in Virginia fighting the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), says her organization is one of many planning events for that day. “The purpose of Hands Across Our Land is to show solidarity and unity among the hundreds of grassroots groups fighting new fossil fuel infrastructure, whether it’s a pipeline, a well pad, an export terminal or a compressor station,” said Ponton.

In addition to opposing the proposed ACP, Free Nelson and other groups – especially in Virginia and West Virginia – are also opposing the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Ponton explained, “By participating together on this one day, we believe we can gain national media attention to the plight of thousands upon thousands of landowners and communities across the country fighting these same battles. We want others to be part of the first nationwide grassroots action against new fossil fuel infrastructures.”nopipeline-e1419984524674

The action, which is being promoted by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Beyond Extreme Energy, is intended to be a collection of local actions. “We need to all stand together, in our own communities, literally holding hands with our neighbors but also symbolically holding hands with those in other communities and states. We are asking that local groups gather at a fracking site, pipeline site or some local monument that symbolizes a community’s value and hold signs saying that they stand with their neighbors in other communities and states. Perhaps they can stand at a county line and join hands with their neighbors in that way.”

In Nelson County, Va., where Ponton lives, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Virginia’s Skyline Drive join to form one of the most scenic drives in all of the United States. “We are standing up for our heritage and culture in rural America,” said Ponton. “We are uniting to stop the industrialization of our communities from companies that put profit before people. Our streams our being polluted, our homes and land are being taken through the misuse of eminent domain, and the health and lives of our families and communities are at risk.”

The Stonewall Gas Gathering pipeline construction is less than 100 feet from this home near Weston, W.Va.

The Stonewall Gas Gathering pipeline construction is less than 100 feet from this home near Weston, W.Va.

She continued, “The fossil fuel industry will destroy thousands of acres of forested land, pollute water and the air, harm our local economies, degrade our national treasures such as the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Appalachian Trail and historical Native American areas. All of this destruction would occur in the name of profit.”

Ponton calls upon local groups to plan an event, promote it through social media, send any plans or comments to her for distribution to national media and use the hashtag phrase #HandsAcrossOurLand.”

To learn more, contact Ponton at freenelson3@gmail.com.

Related Articles:
A Dirty Dozen Reasons to Oppose Fracking
Fracking Poses Threats to Public Health
Health and Well-Being of Residents Being Subordinated to Fracking Industry
Pipeline Lawsuits Threaten Sacredness of Appalachia
FERC Challenged to be Truly Independent
Natural Gas Industry Moves from the Absurd to the Profane

© The Appalachian Preservation Project, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. If you find this writing of value, we hope that you will consider support our independent work by becoming a member of the Appalachian Preservation Project. You can learn more here. By doing so, you will be supporting not only this website, but also our other outreaches, programs and partnerships.

We are on Facebook
On Twitter: @appchronicle

West Virginia Couple Models Renewable Energy

Open House demonstrates benefits of solar power

By Michael M. Barrick

WALLACE, W.Va. – Autumn Long and Dan Harrington, a couple living in the heart of West Virginia’s fracking region, opened their home to the public on July 12 to demonstrate the potential of solar power as a reliable and cost-effective renewable energy source. Approximately 50 people from at least 13 counties – some traveling several hours – turned out on an overcast day that included periods of light rain.

While such weather might seem less than desirable for demonstrating solar energy, attendees learned that even on a cloudy day, the solar panels the couple had installed by PIMBY – a company based in the small mountain town of Thomas, W.Va. – were supplying all of the couple’s power needs that day. While the panels are capable of producing 2,700 kilowatts of power per hour, on this day it was fluctuating between 800 and 1,200 kilowatts per hour. Even at that relatively low production, the proof was there for everyone to see – an electric meter spinning backwards.

Folks listen to homeowner Autumn Long talk about their solar-powered home, which is in the background

Folks listen to homeowner Autumn Long talk about their solar-powered home, which is in the background

The couple also showed a recent electric bill showing that they have hours banked with their local power company, Harrison Rural Electrification Association, Inc. As Long pointed out, the credits they’ve earned include not only the house they have powered by the solar panels, but another home on the property, Harrington’s childhood home. The original house is not powered by the panels, but as Long pointed out, under West Virginia law, a home on a contiguous parcel of land is eligible for any credits earned by the landowner’s own power production.

As Matt Sherald, owner of PIMBY pointed out, “They are their own power plant.”

The solar panels that power the couple's home as seen from the home's deck.

The solar panels that power the couple’s home as seen from the home’s deck.

Explaining why they had opened their home for the day, Long said, “The basic reason we wanted to host an open house was to give people an opportunity to view a working solar array up close, and to demonstrate that it is possible for regular people like us to go solar and thereby save money, conserve resources, and decrease our dependence on fossil fuels.” She added, “I hope our advocacy will help promote the use of renewables in West Virginia and inspire others to consider going solar.”

John Cobb, a Lewis County resident who attended the gathering, said “Thanks for giving up your day to help educate us on the power of solar energy creation which will be the wave of the future here in West Virginia as the price of solar power installation continues to drop.” Long responded, “You have perfectly summed up the contrast between the current situation of fossil fuel extraction and the potential for a renewable future. I sincerely believe that this nation and world is on the brink of a radical and rapid shift in how our energy is produced, distributed, and consumed, and I am excited to be part of that change.”

Long also provided tours of the couple’s home, pointing out the ways they limit their power usage. They have no air conditioner, no water pump (as the house receives its water from a spring above the house – in short, relying upon gravity), have purchased the most energy-efficient appliances available, heat with a wood stove, and have all LED lighting. She shared, “We’re super into energy efficiency.” So, she noted, “We have been producing way more power than we consume.”

Autumn Long explains the process of powering their home by solar panels

Autumn Long explains the process of powering their home by solar panels

The couple, who own Goldenseal Garden Care, a landscaping company, spent approximately $13,000 on the system. The majority – $10,000 – was invested in the panels. The balance went for the inverter, wiring and hardware. The panels are actually several hundred feet from the home so that they would be located to maximize exposure to the sun. They built a small out building to place them on and ran the wire underground to their home.

As visitors checked out the out building and the home, and visited in small groups to discuss the work done by the couple, Long said, “Now is the time to make the transition to renewables for financial and environmental reasons.”

© The Appalachian Preservation Project, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. If you find this writing of value, we hope that you will consider support our independent work by becoming a member of the Appalachian Preservation Project. You can learn more here. By doing so, you will be supporting not only this website, but also our other outreaches, programs and partnerships.

We are on Facebook
On Twitter: @appchronicle

Standing Their Ground

Justin McClain (L) listens as his father, Robert talks about the Stonewall Gas Gathering Pipeline

Justin McClain (L) listens as his father, Robert talks about the Stonewall Gas Gathering Pipeline

Local farmers battle with companies building Stonewall Gas Gathering Pipeline over crop damage; West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issues Notice of Violation to company for violations nearby, continues investigation of incident impacting farm

By Michael M. Barrick

BIG ISAAC, W.Va. – Justin McClain is a farmer. At 35, it is all he has ever done in this small Doddridge County community since before he was a teenager. It is also all he plans to ever do. However, recent damage he says was caused to his crops by the company building the Stonewall Gas Gathering pipeline has him questioning if he will be able to keep his farm going. It also has him and his father, Robert, concerned about the farm’s future if the larger and longer Mountain Valley Pipeline is approved, and has left them both with a bitter taste about the industry as they have tried to get the companies building the 55-mile Stonewall Pipeline Project to compensate them for the loss of Justin’s spring hay crop.

Stonewall Gathering Pipeline construction as seen from a hilltop in Doddridge County, W.Va.

Stonewall Gathering Pipeline construction as seen from a hilltop in Doddridge County, W.Va.

To date, the companies have not admitted responsibility for the damages to his crops. Indeed, they’ve insisted that the McClain’s sign a Release and Waiver that states that the companies are not responsible. In fact, the McClains were given a different version of the Release and Waiver than an attorney in Charleston received – and approved – on their behalf. The two men have also had several conversations on their property with several different corporate representatives, the last ones being told by the elder McClain to leave. “They called Justin a liar. That was enough for me. I told those boys to leave, that they were trespassing.” Justin added, “They took that paper, put it in front of our faces and told us we had to sign it. It was like they were trying to jam it down our throats.”

Meanwhile, Jamie Tallman, an environmental inspector with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) has acknowledged he has inspected the damage done to the McClain’s crops and the area upstream where the pipeline construction is occurring. While Tallman said that no Notice of Violation (NOV) has yet been issued to the company building the pipeline – Stonewall Gas Gathering, LLC (SGG) – he added, “We’re still evaluating it.” (However, a NOV has been issued to SGG on the project. Details are below). He spoke with the McClains on July 7. If a NOV is to be issued, it would generally be done within about two business weeks of his investigation. Tallman emphasized, though, that the McClains were not the only people who had contacted WVDEP. “This particular complaint came from many different directions,” he said.

The dispute between the McClains and SGG began after a heavy rain on the evening of June 20th. Just about 2,000 feet upstream from the McClain farm, Precision Pipeline, a subcontractor for SGG, was preparing to lay a 36” pipeline on a steep hillside directly above Meathouse Fork, near Isaac Creek. Meathouse Fork is a tributary of Middle Island Creek, the longest creek in the United States. It empties into the Ohio River near St. Mary’s, W.Va., after meandering for about 77 miles north and then southwest from Doddridge County.

Meathouse Fork on June 22. Note the heavy sediment. Photo courtesy of Pipeline Air Force

Meathouse Fork on June 22. Note the heavy sediment.
Photo courtesy of Pipeline Air Force

Following the rain, a hayfield that would produce approximately 500 bales of hay for Justin’s cattle was flooded. When the waters receded, the McClains found the hay to be unusable. “It’s full of mud,” said Justin. “You can’t use it like that. It’s bad for the cows. It hurts them when they try to eat it, and it is bad for their intestines. It can kill them.” He continued, “It is also bad for the equipment. It clogs it up. And, if you’re the one harvesting it, you get covered with dust. So it is unusable.”

Equally frustrating to the McClains is the treatment they’ve received from the employees of the various companies involved in the project. Robert recalled, “We went up a week before this happened. We talked to a guy from Wisconsin and told him we were concerned about the threat to the valley from runoff.” Robert said the man told him, “If it comes down that valley, if anything happens, we’ll stand good for it. Now go on and don’t worry about it.”

Then the rains came on June 20th, damaging the hay field. Justin explained, “There is just no way to get that mud off that hay. Two or three of them came down. Said they understood and would replace the hay.”

Meathouse Fork with heavy sediment after a rain in June

Meathouse Fork with heavy sediment after a rain in June

Yet, they’re still waiting. Robert said that after the first visits by company officials, they were being told a different story. “They called back and said they wouldn’t buy the hay. It was an act of God, that it could happen anywhere. He said they had rain gauges all along the line and that it had rained three-and-a-half inches in 15 minutes. I told him we were out there and it could not possibly have rained that much in that amount of time.” It was then, he said, that he began to not trust them. Robert, who has lived on the land since the late 1940s, added, “That would have been the most rain we have ever seen in this valley.”

Conflicting Release and Waiver documents
The most recent exchange, after several visits over three weeks by various company officials, included two versions of the same Release and Waiver. The attorney in Charleston that the McClains contacted received a faxed version with a cover sheet without a letterhead. The attorney told the McClains they could sign it, as it was more to their liking than an earlier version because it was limited to the 2015 June hay crop. However, it also reads, “It is understood and agreed by the Owner (the McClains) and SGG that this settlement is a compromise of disputed claims, and payment by SGG is not an admission of liability, and that SGG expressly denies any liability.” The previous version required the McClains to abandon all rights to future claims, denied them the right to talk to any third parties about the matter, and threatened them with an injunction if they violated any of those stipulations.

“I wasn’t going to sign that,” said Robert. “I told them, this is a free country. I’ll talk to who I want. If I want to tell my neighbors up and down the valley, I will.”

That is when the company presented the second document. However, while the attorney was receiving his copy, company representatives presented the McClains with a different version. Justin said, “They kept calling over here wanting to know if the attorney had seen it yet. Once we did get it, they sent someone over right away. But that was a different document than the one they sent the attorney. I asked them what they were trying to pull. The man told me it was a mistake, that he had grabbed the wrong document at the office.” It still contained the provisions that the McClains could make no future claims against the company, and required them to not talk to third parties.

Pipeline construction passes within 100 feet of this home

Pipeline construction passes within 100 feet of this home

None of the three documents contained company letterhead.

Justin recalled, “I told them I’d be a fool to sign that. I told them I just couldn’t trust them. That’s when they called me a liar and put that paper right in front of us and told us we had to sign it. They were following dad around the property demanding that he sign it.” He continued, “I told them I didn’t want money. I just wanted them to get some hay and deliver it. I don’t know why they won’t make it right. It would be so simple.”

Robert added, “That’s the kind of people we’re dealing with. They do not care about the land or water. I don’t think anyone in West Virginia can do anything because they own the politicians. Who’s going to go behind them to fix their destruction?”

Justin added, “All they care about is money. They don’t care about people or land.”

Yet, Justin concluded, “Dad has always told me, ‘Stand your ground.’ That’s what we’re going to do.” Robert simply nodded his head in agreement.

Calls to several company officials were not returned.

Notice of Violation
While the investigation by the WVDEP continues regarding the complaints about the event that impacted the McClain’s farm, SGG was issued a Notice of Violation by WVDEP on June 16th for violations about two miles north of that community. The streams impacted there are Buffalo Calf Fork and Buckeye Creek. Buckeye Creek joins with Meathouse Fork to form Middle Island Creek, so both are tributaries of the nation’s longest creek, with a watershed of more than 550 square miles.

According to Tallman’s report, sediment and erosion control requirements for stream crossings, perimeter controls, and access roads were found to be unsatisfactory. He wrote, “The stream crossing and perimeter controls in Buffalo Calf Fork were observed to be in noncompliance. …” He continued, “Access roads, or stabilized construction entrances to project areas, were observed to lack the required seventy (70) feet of stone as required by the project and E&S plans.”

Water quality was also impacted according to the report. “Sediment associated with pipeline construction was observed to have left the project site through a compromised section of super silt fence and entered into Buffalo Calf Fork, resulting in Conditions Not Allowable in State Waters.”

Middle Island Creek Watershed Art courtesy of Tim Kiser

Middle Island Creek Watershed
Art courtesy of Tim Kiser

Tallman included five warnings for SGG at the end of his report:
1. It is to operate systems and facilities “ … to achieve compliance with the permit.”
2. Entrance signs are to be posted at the project’s site entrance.
3. “Each side shall have a stone access entrance and exit and parking areas to reduce the tracking of sediment onto public or private roads.”
4. “No sediment-laden water shall be allowed to leave the site without going through an appropriate best management practice.”
5. Ensure compliance with the project’s General Permit, Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan, and Groundwater Protection Plan.

The NOV number is W-NW-JGT-061615-001. Attempts to reach SGG officials for comment were unsuccessful.

About the Stonewall Pipeline Project
Stonewall Gas Gathering, LLC was incorporated in Delaware on June 4, 2014. According to a spokesperson with the Delaware Secretary of State’s office, principals of companies need not be listed. SGG is a subsidiary of Momentum (officially M3Midstream). Momentum is based in Texas and Colorado. The Stonewall Gathering line is part of Momentum’s Appalachian Gathering System (AGS).

The Stonewall Gathering pipeline will connect to the AGS in Harrison County and terminate in Braxton County, where it will connect to the Columbia pipeline.

The company laying the pipeline is Wisconsin-based Precision Pipeline, LLC. Calls to Precision regarding the McClain’s concerns were not returned, but according to the company’s website, “The required qualifications of today’s pipeline contractor are much different. Today’s contractor must not only be cost efficient, but must do so while making a significant priority of the project’s safety needs and the needs of the landowner and the environment. Because of these fundamental changes within the industry, contractors have changed the way they operate by re-training their management, estimators, superintendents, and general workforce. Over the past 20 years, existing contractors have been forced to make this transition to remain on the bid lists of their prospective clients.

“Precision Pipeline is the first pipeline contractor uniquely designed to successfully and efficiently work within today’s more stringent pipeline construction parameters. When considering pipeline contractors to bid on your next pipeline project, remember Precision Pipeline. Our business is built around your needs and the needs of today’s pipeline client. We have the experience and expertise to safely complete any project while maintaining total environmental compliance with minimal impact to landowners. Precision Pipeline is not a new contractor; we are the next generation pipeline contractor.”

SGG secured a loan of $350 million to fund operations, including the Stonewall Gathering pipeline. The loan is due in 2022. Moody’s Investors Service reports, about the pipeline project, “The proceeds of the term loan will be used to fund a portion of the $460 million construction cost. While the term loan is non-recourse, Stonewall benefits from long term, minimum volume commitments from Antero Resources Corporation (Antero, Ba3 stable) and Mountaineer Keystone (unrated) for roughly 83% of the start-up capacity of 1.4 Bcf per day. Stuart Miller, Moody’s Vice President, said, “Stonewall’s (rating) reflects the project risks associated with constructing a gathering and transportation system on a non-turn-key basis, its small scale and weak business profile, the counterparty risk of its major customers, and the lack of revenue and cash flow until the first quarter of 2016.”

WVDEP Oversight
Unlike the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley interstate pipelines, the Stonewall Gathering pipeline is not subject to federal oversight because it is entirely within the state’s boundaries. According to Tallman with WVDEP, intrastate pipelines were exempted from federal oversite by Congress in 2005. In response, said Kelley Gillenwater, the WVDEP communications director, the WVDEP recommended to the legislature that the agency be allowed some oversight. The result was legislation that took effect in June 2013 that does allow the WVDEP some oversight of projects, but she added, “It is limited to stormwater construction permits.”

According to Gillenwater, WVDEP has oversight of the project because, “This would be a non-residential construction project that disturbs more than three acres, which requires a Construction Stormwater Permit and a Site Registration Application.” She noted that the application bundles the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan and Groundwater Protection Plan.

The permit for the plan was issued on Jan. 29, 2015. The permit number is WVR310402 under General Permit number WV0116815.

Asked if notices were issued for public comment or if comments were made, she answered, “Site Registration Applications require public comment if they exceed 100 acres. As this project does, it should have gone to public comment.” She said that the legal add was advertised in the West Union Herald Record from Dec. 16, 2014 through Jan. 15, 2015. She said that no comments were received.

Conclusion
Our research of the Stonewall Gas Gathering pipeline is ongoing. Check back for additional coverage.

© The Appalachian Preservation Project, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. If you find this writing of value, we hope that you will consider support our independent work by becoming a member of the Appalachian Preservation Project. You can learn more here. By doing so, you will be supporting not only this website, but also our other outreaches, programs and partnerships.

We are on Facebook
On Twitter: @appchronicle

The Flower Walk

Through the eyes of a six-year-old, the world is beautiful, fascinating and wonderfully fragrant

By Michael M. Barrick

ALUM BRIDGE, W.Va. – On a table calendar that belonged to my folks before they passed, there are brief, positive statements to read as one starts the day. Today’s is “A smile happens in a flash, but the memory of it can last a lifetime.” If that is true – and I believe it is – then I have many lifetimes of memories just from one short weekend with our granddaughter, Atleigh.

I learned from her, that from the perspective of a six-year-old, the world is beautiful, fascinating and wonderfully fragrant.

A field of flowers in a quiet West Virginia valley

A field of flowers in a quiet West Virginia valley

She was in, along with other family members, visiting over the holiday weekend. They arrived on Friday evening about supper time. With some neighbors on vacation, I was making evening trips to their farm to check on the chickens. I figured Atleigh would get a kick out of that, so I asked her if she wanted to tag along. She was in the car for the two-mile drive over the “bumpy” (gravel) road before I could change my shoes.

She chattered non-stop for the 10-minute ride, asking me all sorts of questions about the mist hanging in the hills from the rain that had quit just minutes before she arrived, about what kind of animals lived in the woods, and some other things that were spit out so rapidly that I still don’t know what she said.

I didn’t need to. Her eyes said it all.

I had barely stopped the car before she bounded out of it and ran towards the chickens roaming around the yard. Laughing at their gait, her eyes were wide and as full of joy as was her belly laugh. Since other family members have chickens, she was soon telling me what I needed to do. I, of course, did exactly as I was told.

Later, as we meandered around the farm, checking things, she noticed the nearby field of flowers that covers much of the valley floor in the hollow where we live. Immediately, she asked – exclaimed – “Can we go on a flower walkl!?”

Several deer, including a fawn, graze in a field in a West Virginia hollow

Several deer, including a fawn, graze in a field in a West Virginia hollow

I promised that we would, but pointed out it would have to wait until the next day, as we needed to get back and have supper. In a startling display of delayed gratification, she agreed to wait a day. Her patience was rewarded, for the time we would have spent walking through the field was instead filled with one deer sighting after another. By the time we had finished our short drive back, this time taking 20 minutes so that we could look for and count the deer, Atleigh had seen 20 deer, including five fawn.

After pointing out the passenger window at several just before we reached the farm where we are living, she turned to me, eyes as wide and as bright as they could possibly be and held up her hand with her fingers spread wide, saying, “Five! We saw five fawn and 20 deers!” As soon as we parked, she hopped out, ran into the house and announced our discoveries. Her smile not only filled the room, it was instantly contagious, and all were smiling, even though we were all exhausted – some from a day of moving, others from a long drive.

The next morning, before we “officially” began our flower walk, Atleigh waited – not too patiently – for me to finish my coffee. While waiting, she walked out through the front yard and went directly to the lavender. It drew her in like a magnet. She demanded that everybody smell it. With genuine, appreciative innocence, she blurted out, “It is so beautiful!” Again, her eyes danced.

The Flower Walk had begun. We each had our own vase, though I soon discovered that my job was to pick the flowers that she chose. She arranged them. With each addition, she would hold the vase up to me and ask, “Isn’t it beautiful?” She repeatedly insisted that I smell her latest selection. In time, after a very leisurely and meandering stroll, both vases were filled; we returned to the farm house and put them in water.

Atleigh returned home yesterday. This morning, I noticed that the flowers we had picked have faded. What has not faded, though, is the memory of those dancing, sparkling eyes – that smile full of wonder and sheer joy. How sweet our memories are, that we can take a moment – a flash of a smile – and live off of it forever.

I can’t wait for our next adventure. I have plenty of room for more memories, at least once I delete some baseball statistics from the 1960s.

© The Appalachian Preservation Project, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. If you find this writing of value, we hope that you will consider support our independent work by becoming a member of the Appalachian Preservation Project. You can learn more here. By doing so, you will be supporting not only this website, but also our other outreaches, programs and partnerships. Learn more.

We are on Facebook
On Twitter: @appchronicle

Filmmaker Finds Compelling Story in Her Own ‘Backyard’

Impact of fracking the focus of Keely Kernan’s latest work

By Michael M. Barrick

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. – Award-winning filmmaker Keely Kernan has already demonstrated that she is willing to travel anywhere to produce work that enlightens people about social and environmental topics. Kernan, 30, a native of the Appalachian Mountains of south-central Pennsylvania, has traveled to West Africa, Haiti and Central America for film projects. Now, however, Kernan, working from this historic hamlet in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle, is staying much closer to home, but still on a topic of significant social and environmental importance.

Keely Kernan at work

Keely Kernan at work

Kernan is covering the impacts of fracking upon people and the communities in which they live in a feature film titled “In the Hills and Hollows.” She began production in May of 2014 and has spent hundreds of hours researching and connecting with communities throughout West Virginia, and shooting the film. Currently, 60 percent of the film has been shot. She is in the process of conducting a Kickstarter campaign to secure funding needed to continue shooting and to contract post-production team members. That campaign ends on June 20, which is also the 152nd anniversary of West Virginia’s admittance into the Union as a state. (Additional information about the Kickstarter campaign can be found below).

Recently, Kernan found herself in opposite corners of the state. She visited Wetzel County to get an up-close look at one of the most heavily fracked counties in the Mountain State. Located in the northwestern portion of the state, it borders Ohio and Pennsylvania. She also went to Monroe County, located in the southeastern corner of the state; there she covered the impact of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 300-mile 42” pipeline that would originate in Wetzel County and cross into Virginia from Monroe County. There, residents are fighting energy companies attempting to get approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to build the pipeline because approval will mean the companies can use eminent domain to cross private property to build the pipeline.Film Photo

Wherever she goes, Kernan seeks out those people whose stories are representative of the impacts of the state’s reliance upon a fossil fuel mono-economy. She explains, “I decided to make this documentary after spending a significant amount of time meeting with residents throughout West Virginia affected by the natural gas boom. What makes this story unique is that in many ways this is a repeat of history. We have seen the legacy of the boom and bust coal industry, the poisoning of our waterways, and wealth and resources leaving the state.”

Allen Johnson with Christians for the Mountains commented upon Kernan’s work. “I have seen two of Keely’s presentations as well as watched her filming on site. Keely’s work is driven by her keen heart of compassion and zeal for justice, coupled with high quality professional skill. Her filming will move hearts and minds to correct abuses to people and land and toward a much-needed shift of policy and practice to build a bright future for West Virginia.”

Kernan has traveled to cover the experiences of Annie and John Seay, who left their home last summer to get away from the fracking industry which surrounded their home. She spent countless days and hours with Myra Bonhage-Hale, a Lewis County lavender farmer who is also moving away from the farm she has owned for 35 years because of the impact the fracking industry is having close to her 110-acre farm. Bonhage-Hale is returning to her native Maryland. Kernan has captured the stories of residents in Doddridge County, Tyler County, Harrison County and many others. Kernan explained why she has traveled so extensively and intensively, spending hours with many of her subjects. “Ultimately, I decided to make this film to help share the stories of residents who live here, at ground zero of today’s energy, and to help promote a very important conversation about what type of future we want to have as citizens.”

Other journalists covering the topic, as well as environmental activists across the state, will cross paths with Kernan repeatedly. She has been at an industry-sponsored meeting and Jackson’s Mill last summer, a Town Hall community meeting in the tiny village of Ireland sponsored by two environmental nonprofits on a snowy and frigid Saturday in February, and a conference in Charleston where she spoke on the role of filmmaking in telling the story of preservationist efforts in Appalachia. She has sat with dozens of individuals, spent times at their homes, and seen citizens in numerous community meetings mobilize to challenge the energy industry.

Kernan shared, “While on this journey I have met many incredible people and it has been a privilege getting to know all of them. Residents have invested just as much in the film as I have invested in helping to tell their stories. They have spent hours showing me their communities, and have often times offered me a place to stay while organizing a visit in very rural parts of West Virginia. Their time and support has made this film possible.”

To learn more about the Kickstarter campaign please visit:
hillshollowsdoc.com

To read related articles about “In the Hills and Hollows,” as well as view some brief clips from the film, visit:
Kickstarter Campaign Launched for West Virginia-Based Feature Film
Breaking Ground, Breaking Hearts
Health and Well-Being of Residents Being Subordinated to Fracking Industry

© Appalachian Preservation Project, LLC, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. The Appalachian Preservation Project is a social enterprise committed to preserving and protecting Appalachia. If you wish to support our work, please consider becoming a member.

We are on Facebook.
On Twitter: @appchronicle

Health and Well-Being of Residents Being Subordinated to Fracking Industry

A West Virginian tells of the assault upon her way of life

By Michael M. Barrick

WEST UNION, W.Va. – For more than a century, since the days of the logging industry and the beginning of coal mining, hardy West Virginia workers knew they were risking their lives every time they set foot on a steep mountainside to cut down a tree or work a longwall in the damp underground.

Then, the 1972 Buffalo Creek disaster made it clear that workers were not the only ones being asked to risk their lives for the fossil fuel extraction industry – average citizens were. That is the history of West Virginia; sadly, it is also the present.

Fracking has ruined the lives and livelihoods of countless West Virginians. The dangers from fracking are well-documented. In West Virginia, they are simply being ignored – except by a few people determined to have their story told.

One such West Virginian is Tina Del Prete. She told her story to filmmaker Keely Kernan, who is presently filming her feature film about fracking, “In the Hills and Hollows.” Keely recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to help finance the cost of production of the film.

Del Prete has lived on her 30-acre farm for 37 years. Fracking started in her area about five or six years ago. “The first thing we noticed was the destruction and the traffic,” said Del Prete. “The destruction was from clear cutting for roads, well pads, compressor stations, metering stations, pipelines, and rights-of-way.”

She admitted she was nervous about talking to Kernan on camera, but said, “I did it so people would know what’s going on.” She continued, “I want people to know how destructive it is to the environment, to the community it’s in, and to the people. The cumulative effect impacts everyone in this county.” While some are encouraged by a slowdown in the industry because of a drop in oil prices, Del Prete, offered, “I don’t think it’s over by a long shot.”

Help tell the story
After listening to Tina tell her story, if you want to help spread her story so that the fossil-fuel mono-economy will not take precedence over the lives of West Virginians and all of those impacted by fracking, please visit the website below to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign. By giving, you will help ensure that the Tina’s story and the accounts of so many others are heard – and heeded.

To learn more about the Kickstarter campaign please visit:
hillshollowsdoc.com

About Keely Kernan
Keely Kernan is an award winning filmmaker and photographer. Her work is dedicated to producing media that enlightens people about relevant social and environmental topics.  As a storyteller she is driven by a desire to connect the viewer and inspire conversations that will influence and initiate reform.

© Appalachian Preservation Project, LLC 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project.

Breaking Ground, Breaking Hearts

Story of Myra Bonhage-Hale reveals that fracking is destructive beyond what we can see

By Michael M. Barrick

ALUM BRIDGE, W.Va. – Myra Bonhage-Hale was getting hugs from people short, tall, young and old on her farm in Lewis County at her final Lavender Fair on May 9. Situated at the end of a three-mile gravel road connecting with U.S. Rt. 33 about halfway between Weston and Glenville, the remote location could not keep her admirers away. The hugs were part of the collective, extended community “goodbye” to Bonhage-Hale as she leaves the farm she has owned for 35 years to move back to her native Maryland.

At 80, Hale has made countless friends in the Mountain State. Indeed, as she was receiving yet another hug in her kitchen, she said simply, with tears in the corner of her eyes, “I’ve got so many friends.” Yet, she is moving out of the West Virginia hollow she loves so much because of the adverse impacts of the fracking industry.

The dozens of visitors gathering in this secluded hollow expressed their sadness at her departure, but assured her they understood. Nevertheless, conversations among small groups gathered under shade trees inevitably turned to the sadness people held in their hearts – not only for Myra, but also her family, her friends and, indeed, the entire state of West Virginia.

Bonhage-Hale did not make her decision in haste. At a meeting of the Lewis County Commission last Oct. 6, she implored commissioners to act upon their duty to protect the citizens and environment of the county. She said, “When I came to West Virginia as a single parent to the abandoned farm now known as La Paix, I thought of it as ‘Almost Heaven.’” Later, as she concluded her remarks, she said, “As I leave West Virginia, with my 34 years of hard work and love and joy and friendship at La Paix behind me, I think of West Virginia as ‘Almost Hell.’ La Paix is for sale. La Paix means peace. I plan to take it with me. The powers that be will not let me keep it here.” Indeed, sensing that her remarks were falling on deaf ears, she turned from the podium and with a quivering voice said to her son, “I need to get out of here.” While she was talking about the commission meeting room, her words were spoken with such determination that one sensed they had a double meaning. She was alluding, as well, it seemed, to West Virginia.

As word spread over the past several months that Bonhage-Hale was indeed moving, several of her friends asked that she have one more Lavender Fair before leaving. She agreed. She and her guests were greeted with a lovely West Virginia spring day. As each entered the farm, they were welcomed by a sign that reminded them why this hollow is so special – sacred even. The sign includes the name given the farm by Bonhage-Hale, “La Paix,” which is French for “peace.” The long banner includes the same greeting in several languages.

Based on the outpouring of love shown her this day, Bonhage-Hale has succeeded in living out the words that greet each of her visitors. While the steep slopes surrounding her farm house seemingly welcome and embrace the visitor, it is the joyful nature of Bonhage-Hale that creates the atmosphere. It is common for her to use the peace sign as a greeting and close out conversations and emails with the simple word, “Joy!”

It is that nature that seemed to overwhelm one visitor as she watched a screening of an extended trailer of Keely’s film. It includes a segment of Bonhage-Hale on her farm, alluding to the lack of respect by the extraction industry for people and the earth. After watching it, the person had to excuse herself. After composing herself, she explained, “This is so wrong. This is such a beautiful place. Myra is so sweet. She has always opened her home to us. This festival has brought many people together. The energy industry does not care about people. It does not care about land. It just cares about profit, no matter who it hurts. It breaks my heart.”

Later, when Bonhage-Hale was sitting in her kitchen, now quiet after most of the guests had left, she shared some departing thoughts about La Paix. Though the Lavender Fair was held only about 10 years of the 35 that she lived on the farm, Bonhage-Hale noted that it had been reflective of the purpose of La Paix. “The Lavender Fair is a culmination of research, friends, groups, apprentices and gardens into one great spiritual, energetic whole. This place has such magnificent energy because of the energy we’ve put into it. Also, what the earth puts into it. It works both ways.”

Pausing to think back over the 35 years, Bonhage-Hale offered, “Everyone that was here was happy. A lot of things go into the wholeness of La Paix. We’ve had wonderful apprentices, wonderful help and wonderful volunteers. People who come here appreciate the beauty of the land, the beauty of West Virginia.”

However, she concluded, “I don’t think West Virginia is being honored now by the powers that be. I’m not leaving West Virginia. It left me.”

To learn more about the Kickstarter campaign (including paintings donated by Myra Bonhage-Hale as rewards, please visit):
hillshollowsdoc.com

To view the trailer of Myra Bonhage-Hale from “In the Hills and Hollows,” please visit:
Meet Myra Bonhage-Hale

About Keely Kernan
Keely Kernan is an award winning filmmaker and photographer. Her work is dedicated to producing media that enlightens people about relevant social and environmental topics. As a storyteller she is driven by a desire to connect the viewer and inspire conversations that will influence and initiate reform.

© Appalachian Preservation Project, LLC 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project.

FERC Challenged to Be Truly Independent

Issues from local to global must be considered

By Autumn Long

Editor’s note: These are remarks made by the author at Bridgeport High School on March 24 at the last of several public scoping meetings that were held by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to consider the environmental impact of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and Supply Header Pipeline.

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. – I recently received a letter that contains vaguely worded threats of legal action against me for refusing pipeline surveyors access to my property. No eminent domain ruling has yet been made on the subject of the proposed pipelines, yet the involved companies are proceeding as if it were a foregone conclusion. Given recent public comments made by the chief officer of FERC, this is not such an unreasonable assumption. So I hope FERC will sincerely and closely consider all the comments submitted by citizens and organizations whose interests do not align with those of the gas industry, if for no other reason than to defend their agency’s supposed independence and neutrality against growing public perception that the fox is, in fact, guarding the hen house.

The impacts of the entire suite of simultaneously proposed interstate gas pipelines must be considered as cumulative and lasting. These pipelines would lay the groundwork for an exponential increase in fracking, which has already run roughshod over this region of Appalachia. Extracting and burning the natural gas distributed through these pipelines would lead to future greenhouse gas emissions that will exacerbate the unfolding global disaster of climate change. FERC needs to consider these impacts on scales ranging from the global to the local.

In the case of the ACP, this pipeline would transect some of the most pristine and wildest public forest lands in the eastern United States. These forests are irreplaceable parts of our nation’s natural heritage that protect sensitive ecosystems, endangered and threatened wildlife species, unique geologic formations, and the sources of fresh drinking water for many, many millions of people. Environmental impacts include forest fragmentation and habitat loss as well as the loss of future carbon capture due to permanent deforestation along pipeline rights-of-way; erosion and loss of topsoil from one of the oldest mountain ranges on the planet; sedimentation and pollution of waterways; and increased opportunities for the spread of invasive species along pipeline corridors.

Should these pipeline projects move forward, their installation along existing right-of-way corridors would help minimize this environmental destruction and mitigate negative human impacts such as increased potential for flooding, air pollution, noise pollution, and public health consequences. Creating new pipeline corridors would involve the forcible taking of private property, depriving landowners of its use and enjoyment and decreasing their properties’ values.

Regardless of route choice, questions of public safety remain, including the possibility of explosions with enormous projected blast radii and hazardous chemical leaks. Vigilant monitoring, maintenance, and upkeep will be required for the indefinite future in order to minimize these risks and dangers, the possibility of which can never be entirely prevented even with best efforts. I, for one, have little faith that these gas companies, including the many iterations of subcontractors hired to perform this work, will in fact maintain the necessary levels of maintenance and repairs to prevent inevitable decay and decrepitude of these pipelines over time. This state is already criss-crossed with aging, neglected pipelines in various stages of disrepair. How, then, can we trust these same companies to maintain hundreds of additional miles of pipelines of unprecedented scale and size with any more care than they have demonstrated toward their existing responsibilities?

Given the enormity of these risks and destructive impacts, a compelling case indeed must be made in favor of the public interest and benefits that would derive from these pipelines. Yet such an argument proves elusive, particularly given the fact that current gas production is far outstripping domestic consumption in this country. These pipelines in fact offer a textbook example of so-called “negative externalities,” when public costs shore up private profits. In this case, great environmental and social burdens would be unfairly borne by the population of a region that is poor, underserved, and underdeveloped in order to open new markets for private capital and encourage middle-class consumption habits in locations far removed from the scene of the crime.

The inherent goal of these pipelines is to reproduce the economic status quo: to encourage a continuation of socioeconomic conditions in which Americans remain reliant on artificially cheap fossil fuels. This outcome is intrinsically at odds with overarching public interests or the public good. In order to withstand future climate disruption, we must shift swiftly and unhesitatingly toward an energy system of renewable and sustainable proportions. This entails incentivizing a wholesale reduction of fossil fuel use, including that of natural gas, rather than encouraging its expanded consumption. Public policy can and should be working to shape energy regulations that will protect the long-term survival of human civilization on this planet rather than the short-term profits of private corporations.

Autumn Long is a landowner in Harrison County, W.Va.

© Appalachian Preservation Project, LLC, 2015. The Appalachian Chronicle is a publication of the Appalachian Preservation Project. The Appalachian Preservation Project is a social enterprise committed to preserving and protecting Appalachia. If you wish to support our work, please consider becoming a member.

Also, the “Preserving Sacred Appalachia” Earth Day conference is scheduled for April 20-21 in Charleston, W.Va. This is a wonderful opportunity to be part of a community of like-minded preservationists to address the topics covered extensively on this site. Learn about it and register for it here.

Also, if you use Facebook, please “like” our page: https://www.facebook.com/appalachianpreservationproject