Goodbye April…

We’ve lost a great warrior in the West Virginia environmental activist family.

April Pierson-Keating passed from our midst September 28; she was only 52 years old.

She lived those years to the fullest, however, and many of us were lucky enough to call her a friend and colleague. April was the founder and director of Mountain Lakes Preservation  Alliance, and a founding member of POWHR (Preserve Our Water Heritage and Rights). She was a board member of the Buckhannon River Watershed Association, a board member of ICARE, a cancer research group, a board member of the WV Environmental Council, and a member of the Sierra Club, the WV Highlands Conservancy, and OVEC.

One of her last acts on this earth was to organize the 2019 Buckhannon Riverfest—a festival honoring the water systems she and her family depend upon; the event was held in late August this year.

When one met April, one couldn’t help noticing and absorbing her passion for environmental preservation. One of the faith based leaders at this year’s Riverfest, Rev. Karen Robinson Kinney,  said this about April: “Just met her at the river fest in Buckhannon. I’m so sorry. May we continue her work with her passion for justice for the environment and for people.”  

People who have known April for a long time are grieving a great loss. OVEC’s former Executive Director, Janet Keating, said this about April: “What a strong woman! So sad to hear this. April was relentless opposing all the oil and gas issues. I will miss her grit and tenacity along with her sweet smile.”

All of OVEC’s staff are mourning her loss, and many of our members and volunteers have also expressed their grief. April touched a lot of people! 

We are in awe of April’s relentless work, even in her last days. In the last email we received from her, on September 24, four days before her death, she was definitely still working for environmental justice, related to the Antero “Clearwater” fracking waste water processing plant, which is now being shut down. We share this in tribute to her, in memory of her powerful ability to motivate others, inspiring them to take action:

Our last message from April: 

This plant, aka “Clearwater” (HA! What a joke!) figures “bigly” on our Doddridge Gasland tours. We knew it had not been built using WV labor by simply asking the folks who were building at the time, who were mostly brown folks from out of the country. Now, 2 years after the start of the build, and claiming it was going to be a boon for the economy of the area, it is being shut down because it isn’t running right, and the wastewater, gasoline use, truck diesel exhaust, and road damage that were supposed to have been mitigated by keeping all those waste trucks off the road are not going to be, and injection wells and brine ponds all over will again be filling up with tons of radioactive brine. Dear Athens, OH, Fayetteville and Braxton County, WV, and other wastewater destinations – take note: this means you.
 
And this means us. We are no longer going to be able to say we have a solution to the waste problem. Antero lied to us—again—with a smile on their dirty faces. Just like the coal companies did and do. Mr. Manchin, are you seeing this???
 
…Severance tax was one of the biggest carrots they dangled for approval of this project, just as they do for pipelines and Appalachian Storage Hubs. The other one was jobs. SOOO many thousands… Yeah, right. This is another example of the gas industry leaving us in the lurch, just like the coal companies do, but this is even more egregious. This is not just laziness or escapism—it’s predatory.
 
I am going to pass this onto our friends in the media. Would someone from WV… and OH… volunteer to take the problem to their legislatures? In Ohio, it will be the problem of injection; in WV, we have HR11, authored by a Dominion lobbyist and signed by 80 of our representatives! Text here. Maybe we need teams. I will be happy to be on one.
 
When lobbyists like Bob Orndorff, who makes his bread and butter off Dominion, bring their projects to our legislature with ANY offer, especially one in which he offers a scathing criticism of a third party (“rogue environmentalists”) whose only part was shining a light on the injustice so the law could kick in, it is shameful for all of us. Of course he thinks it’s OK to say “rogue environmentalists” are the reason ACP left the area (or MVP or whatever project you like) when the reason is, just as it is behind the “Clearwater” fiasco, they weren’t prepared for working in this terrain, the permits weren’t prepared or examined properly, and now it isn’t functioning, and now the lawyers are taking it up, which is just. 
 
Shame on our WV Legislature, especially those 80 that signed approval on HR11, a resolution which has no teeth, but really shows you where these guys stand – not with us, or clean water and air, but with fossil fuel companies. Right at a time when we know it means our death. Pipelines mean more fracking, but so does a petrochemical hub that makes plastic out of gas feedstock, and in the meantime, the OH legislature is happy to approve a bailout of an old nuclear plant. It’s not just China who is investing in the Hub – we also have Korea, Thailand, WVU, and the governors of 3 states all pressing hard for it. Have they not heard of climate change? Even Greta Thunberg and throngs of people in the streets of New York and can’t break through the rose-colored money glasses these shady characters are wearing.
 
I suggest getting the info straight and then either calling or sitting down with as many of these 80 as you can. They need an education… The website (MLPA) is very useful, too. If teams are called for, then let’s do it.
 
Best,
 
April Pierson-Keating
 

I’m sure April’s powerful spirit will be with us in our ongoing efforts to ensure clean water and air for future generations in our state and region. Let’s rise up and follow her example. 

There is a hashtag trending, and we encourage adopting it as a slogan for your life: #BeLikeApril

From MLPA: Celebrating April Pierson-Keating: An Evening of Sharing & Love

April’s life and relentless work will be celebrated on Friday October 18, 2018, from 4 – 9 p.m. at the Buckhannon Opera House, 12 E. Main St, Buckhannon, WV 26201. Come when you can, leave when you must. Refreshments will be provided. Everyone will have an opportunity to share memories. Please bring local or special water for a blending ceremony if you would like to participate.

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Oct 22 2019  Press Release
“Defend the Water” Targets the Petrochemical Industry for Public Health, Environment and Climate Change Risks
Oct 4 2019  Action Alert
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The Author

Robin Blakeman

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  1. Thank you Robin

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