|Contacts: Vivian Stockman, OVEC, 304-522-0246 or firstname.lastname@example.org
April Keating, Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance, 304-642-9436, email@example.com
Laurie Ardison, POWHR (Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights), 304-646-8339, firstname.lastname@example.org
Angie Rosser, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, 304-437-1274, email@example.com
Brandon Richardson, Headwaters Defense, 394-646-1688 (preferred), 304-653-8589, firstname.lastname@example.org
Groups Unite to Protect Our Region From Fracked Gas and Related Infrastructure OAK HILL, W.VA. — During the last weekend of July, more than 50 leaders representing 26 organizations from 6 states gathered at the Southern Appalachian Labor School. They discussed ways to strengthen regional work around issues people face from fracked gas drilling, waste disposal and related infrastructure concerns, and they heard a keynote address from a member of a group that organized to defeat the Keystone XL pipeline.
“All the groups working on these issues know that we have greater power when we work together,” says Janet Keating, executive director of OVEC (Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition). Keating was the lead organizer of the meeting. “Landowners face threats of eminent domain for the private gain of pipeline companies, and community members face grave threats to their health from land, air, noise, and water pollution from all aspects of fracking.”
Tom Genung, a landowner and president of Nebraska Easement Action Team, Inc., a division of Bold Nebraska, delivered the inspiring keynote address on how a coalition of unlikely allies, the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, worked together to defeat the Keystone XL pipeline project. Genung stayed for the entire meeting and, as it drew to a close, noted that the meeting was quite similar to early coalition-building meetings held in Nebraska.
“There is no doubt that this meeting was something uniquely powerful. Seeds of resistance are firmly planted in Appalachia and are growing exponentially, providing immense strength,” Tom says. “The industry has powers to reckon with that have never existed before, because of unlikely coalitions now evolving. The willingness and planning that has taken place will create an uprising of folks, because they will be informed with the truth. Once people have the truth, along with, inevitably, untruth and short sightedness coming from the industry, people will make the right choices and stand up against the industry and its paid-for positions.”
“There’s a great need for more information on all the issues of pipelines and fracking,” says meeting attendee Cynthia Ellis, of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.“One goal coming out of our meeting is to increase the groups’ abilities to provide individuals, families, and communities with the tools they need to make positive choices and to avoid regrets.”
One group of panelists addressed the status of the fracking gas industry and related pipelines in the region (16 major pipelines and hundreds of smaller gathering pipelines are proposed across West Virginia alone); a second panel highlighted some of the successful strategies and lessons learned by groups working to protect their communities from the harms imposed by gas industry activities.
The latter panel included members of a local group, Headwaters Defense, whose organizing in Fayette County led to a county-wide ban on the injection of fracking waste (now challenged in court). Headwaters Defense’s organizing raises awareness of the severe health problems facing people living near a frack waste injection well.
“There are far too many people in this region being put directly in harm’s way by the fracking industry. We have to join forces so that we can have a healthy future together in Appalachia and help those that are already harmed,” says Brandon Richardson from Headwaters Defense.
Joining Keating in organizing the event were Angie Rosser and Autumn Bryson from West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Laurie Ardison from POWHR, Jim Kotcon from West Virginia Sierra Club, Allen Johnson with Christians for the Mountain, Kirk Bowers with Virginia Sierra Club, and Kate Boyle with Appalachian Voices.
West Virginia groups represented at the event included Christians for the Mountains, Concerned Citizens of Roane County, Eight Rivers Council, Greenbrier River Watershed Association, Headwaters Defense, Indian Creek Watershed Association, Keeper of the Mountains, Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance, OVEC, Preserve Monroe, West Virginia Citizen Action Group, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, West Virginia Environmental Council, and the WV Chapter of Sierra Club.
Also in attendance from Kentucky were representatives of Friends for Environmental Justice; from Pennsylvania, Friends of the Harmed, Juniata Watershed People Before Pipelines, and Energy Justice; from Ohio, Friends for Environmental Justice; from Virginia, Va. Chapter of Sierra Club; from Nebraska, Bold Nebraska. Multi-state coalitions represented included POWHR (Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights) and ORCA (Ohio River Citizens’ Alliance).
The attendees will be actively recruiting additional groups to join as allies in the ongoing efforts to protect our region’s people, air, land, water, heritage, and rights.
This expanded interstate meeting followed a similar gathering of West Virginia grassroots groups that convened in December 2015.