Large Pipelines Disrupt “Home Place” of Local Residents

by Duane Nichols on August 26, 2015

Take Me Home Country Roads

Anthropology / Sociology lesson: ‘Cultural attachment’ woven into review of Mountain Valley pipeline

By Sean Sullivan, Savings N Loan Business,, August 17, 2015

When U.S. Forest Service officials visit FERC with a long list of concerns surrounding the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC natural gas project and others slated to cross national forests in Virginia and West Virginia, the issue of “cultural attachment” is sure to come up.

The concept, loosely defined as the bond between people and their community, has been introduced by citizens groups, and Mountain Valley Pipeline, FERC and the U.S. EPA have all recognized it as an issue. Pipeline industry observers and opponents have warned that such cultural issues could complicate gas infrastructure permitting, and that may come to pass for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, or MVP, project.

“Stop ignoring social impacts and get on with a proper analysis of cultural attachment,” Tammy Belinsky, counsel for Preserve Craig Inc., told FERC in comments filed earlier in August.

The Craig County VA group was part of an organized collection of MVP opponents that asked FERC staff to make the issue part of the project’s environmental impact statement, or EIS. Other community organizations, the Border Conservancy and Save Monroe Inc., submitted to the FERC docket a landowner impact report that included a survey of 210 people on cultural attachment and other topics. According to James Kent Associates, as cited by the two organizations, “cultural attachment is the cumulative effect over time of a collection of traditions, attitudes, practices, and stories that tie a person to the land, to physical place, and to kinship patterns.”

Mountain Valley Pipeline is a joint venture of affiliates of EQT Corp. and NextEra Energy Inc. EQT Midstream Partners LP would operate the pipeline and own a majority interest in the joint venture.

According to notes from an Aug. 4 conference call on the MVP project, Forest Service representatives will visit FERC’s Washington, D.C., office in late August to meet with commission staff “to discuss various projects crossing national forest lands in West Virginia and Virginia.” The notes said the Forest Service may have additional comments on top of the ones it has already filed, and the agency would send them directly to Mountain Valley. Mountain Valley Pipeline officials will meet with staff in early September to discuss the project, now in the FERC pre-filing process, “and efforts to perfect their future application.”

Notes from an earlier call in July said “FERC clarified that at this point, assessment of ‘cultural attachment’ will apply only to U.S. Forest Service lands,” adding, “Research is continuing into that topic.”

Belinsky was not happy with the boundaries on the assessment. “Limiting an analysis of cultural attachment to just the Forest Service lands makes no sense in terms of the science of cultural attachment, particularly in the context of an enormously destructive linear construction project like the MVP pipeline,” she said.

The U.S. EPA, which is a cooperating agency on the project review along with the Forest Service, raised cultural attachment as one of many issues it would like FERC and Mountain Valley Pipeline to address. The EPA, the Forest Service and other agencies raised the issues in comments on draft resource reports, and the FERC Office of Energy Projects packaged the concerns in a to-do list of a couple of hundred data requests, contained in an Aug. 11 letter, that must be filled out by Mountain Valley Pipeline.

FERC staff asked Mountain Valley Pipeline to “include a detailed discussion of ‘cultural attachment’ along the proposed pipeline route crossing the Jefferson National Forest” and said this should be carried out “by a qualified professional cultural anthropologist.”

The EPA raised the issue even as it noted that “MVP continues to work with local stakeholders to site the project in a way that would minimize effects to stakeholders’ cultural attachment.”

Other data requests focused on cultural resources; socioeconomics; pipeline alternatives; pipeline safety; geology; water resources; fisheries; wildlife; vegetation; and land use and recreation, including the Appalachian Trail.

The large number of concerns raised by the Forest Service made it into several media stories, including one by The Associated Press that described “335 questions, comments and corrections” submitted in late July by Forest Supervisor H. Thomas Speaks Jr.

Not all FERC commenters are against the project. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce urged the commission to approve it. “This important infrastructure project will support jobs and economic development throughout the commonwealth of Virginia,” the chamber wrote.

The MVP project would run about 300 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia. It would connect the Equitrans LP transmission system in West Virginia to Williams Partners LP‘s Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co. LLC system in Zone 5 at compressor station 165 in Virginia. The pipeline would provide at least 2 Bcf/d of firm transportation capacity between the Marcellus and Utica shales upstream and downstream markets in Appalachia, the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast. The pipeline capacity could be increased before Mountain Valley Pipeline files a full application with FERC. (PF15-3).

See: “Almost Heaven West Virginia

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Duane Nichols August 26, 2015 at 10:05 pm

Dr. Thomas A. Woods, President of Making Sense of Place, Inc., provides a textured definition of “Sense of Place” and its importance to us:

People develop a “sense of place” through experience and knowledge of a particular area. A sense of place emerges through knowledge of the history, geography and geology of an area, its flora and fauna, the legends of a place, and a growing sense of the land and its history after living there for a time.

The feel of the sun on your face or the rain on your back, the rough and smooth textures of the land, the color of the sky at morning and sunset, the fragrance of the plants blooming in season, the songs and antics of birds and the cautious ramblings of mammals are environmental influences that help to define a place.

Memories of personal and cultural experiences over time make a place special, favorite objects that shape to your hand or body with use, songs or dances that emerge from the people of a place, special skills you develop to enjoy your area–these too help to define a place and anchor you in it.

Through time, shared experiences and stories (history) help to connect place and people and to transmit feelings of place from generation to generation.


Kathryn Robertson August 27, 2015 at 10:19 pm

RE: Mountain Valley Pipeline

The issue of “Sense of Place” is one that has been completely discounted by MVP in my discussions and negotiations with them.

Their attitude in this regard only increases the horror I feel in the knowledge that they fully intend to completely decimate my land, my life and everything that keeps me attached to it, and to do so with complete indifference to the lives they are affecting and have already affected with their lies and bullying!

Kathryn Robertson


M. V. Giuliani (2003) August 31, 2015 at 11:34 pm

Theory of Attachment and Place Attachment

ABSTRACT The theme of this chapter has its general reference frame in that sector of human experience represented by affect – feelings, moods, emotions, etc. – which people experience in various ways, forms, degrees, with varying awareness, with reference to the places in which they are born, live and act. Also, in relation to the other persons who live and operate in the same places.

We have all experienced some form of affective bond, either positive or negative, pleasant or unpleasant, with some place or other – a place that can be related to our current or past experience (childhood places), sometimes to the future (the place we dream of living in, where we would like to go/return to), and more or less restricted in scale: the house in which we live or have lived, a certain room in the home, the area around the home, the neighbourhood, the city, the country… Each of us is familiar with peculiar aspects, nuances, of this affective world. It not only permeates our daily life but very often appears also in the representations, idealisations and expressions of life and affect represented by art products – in the first instance literature, but also other genres.

Indeed, not only do we acknowledge the existence of an affective bond with places, but also the importance that this can have in qualifying our existence, whether positively or negatively. And not just our individual, private, existence, but also the existence of entire human groups. There is perhaps no feeling of mutual affinity, community, fraternity among persons, whether formal or informal, institutionalised or not – nor feeling of diversity, aversion, hostility − that is not in some way related to matters of place, territory and attachment to places.

For better or worse, this has far-reaching implications. The feeling we experience towards certain places and to the communities that the places help to define and that are themselves defined by the places − home (family, relations, friends), workplace (colleagues), church (fellow worshippers), neighbourhood (neighbours), city, country, continent – certainly has a strong positive effect in defining our identity, filling our life with meaning, in enriching it with values, goals and significance. See the Chapter: Giuliani, M. V. (2003). “Theory of attachment and place attachment.” In M. Bonnes, T. Lee, and M. Bonaiuto (Eds.), Psychological Theories For Environmental Issues (pp. 137-170). Aldershot: Ashgate.

However, place attachment can also have negative, and sometimes even disastrous, consequences. For example, the ethnic conflicts that have exploded for some time now in the former Yugoslavia, or the decades-long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

These conflicts stem from an equal attachment to the same place, which puts them in competition. In these cases it may be objected that, rather than attachment to a place, it is political, economic and religious issues that are at stake. But these issues themselves lead back more or less directly, more or less in good faith, to questions of attachment to the territory.

Suffice it to consider the importance in Jewish culture of the idea, or rather the feeling, of a “Promised Land”, of the greeting “next year in Jerusalem” that kept a people, physically scattered to the four corners of the Earth, spiritually united for centuries.

As a result of experience and common sense and general knowledge, affect related to places therefore exists, and is of a nature that, albeit not fully explicit and defined, nevertheless seems to distinguish it from other affective “systems” (towards objects, persons, ideas, etc.); furthermore it is perceived as one of those important factors that sometimes help and sometimes hinder our equilibrium, our material and spiritual well-being. While this amply justifies the adoption of the topic as an object of scientific investigation, the transition from intuitive awareness of the existence of affective bonds with places to a scientific knowledge of the phenomenon is still far from satisfactory. The interest in systematic investigation and the formulation of theories concerning affective bonds that individuals develop with their physical environment took a long time to emerge in environmental psychology.

This does not imply a lack of awareness, but only that the phenomenon was long considered to be of secondary importance vis-à-vis the primary objective of studying the cognitive and behavioural aspects of such relationships. The very varie ty of terms used to refer to affective bonds with places − rootedness, sense of place, belongingness, insideness, embeddedness, attachment, affiliation, appropriation, commitment, investment, dependence, identity, etc. – seem to indicate not so much a diversity of concepts and reference models as a vagueness in the identification of the phenomenon.

Only recently has there been any convergence concerning the “technical”, as opposed to the generic, common language use, of the term attachment, and interest in the topic is beginning to spread outside the strict people & environment research field (cf. Fullilove, 1996).


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