The Lessons of “It’s a Wonderful Life” Continue to Apply Today

by Duane Nichols on December 23, 2018

Heywood Fralin donates $50 million to the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute in Roanoke, VA.

Christopulos: It’s a wonderful life, or is it?

From an Article by Diana Christopulos, Roanoke Times, December 22, 2018

(Diana Christopulos is the retired owner of an international management consulting business. She lives in Salem, Virginia)

Two recent stories in the Roanoke Times started me thinking about “It’s A Wonderful Life,” the classic Christmas film about individual actions that matter for the whole community.

Headline, December 6, 2018: “Fralins give $50 million to Virginia Tech to hire scientists and hasten pace of Roanoke’s economic growth.” This brings to mind the James Stewart/George Bailey banker whose community-minded loans meant broad growth and economic prosperity for the entire town of Bedford Falls. Thanks to the generosity of the Fralins, hundreds of medical researchers from all over the nation and from our own area will be working in downtown Roanoke and contributing to the health and well-being of our region and far beyond for a very long time.

Headline, December 7, 2018: “Virginia files lawsuit against Mountain Valley Pipeline.” This misguided project invokes the memory of Lionel Barrymore/ Mr. Potter, whose greed created an ugly, rundown future for a town renamed Pottersville. MVP is now mired in lawsuits and permit problems as deep as the mud they have spread over local farms, roads, creeks, wetlands and highways.

Economically, the five companies that own MVP are playing an elaborate shell game designed to leave local citizens and businesses paying for all of the project’s costs and damages while they pocket enormous profits. MVP told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that their pipeline would offer natural gas at such low prices that thousands of fleet vehicles in Roanoke city and elsewhere would convert to natural gas. Yet similar projects can result in future prices that are 3 to 4 times higher than in the recent past.

Roanoke Gas and its parent company, RGC Resources, are both a customer and an owner of MVP. While Roanoke Gas/RGC crowed about record profits in 2018, they also noted that they need to pay an additional $11 million for an unexpected 31 percent increase in MVP project costs. How will they pay for it?

It may be a coincidence, but on November 11, 2018, Roanoke Gas announced to the public in the Roanoke Times that they are going to start charging every single customer a rate almost 11 percent higher than in the past for “a total revenue requirement increase of $10.5 million per year.” About the same amount they need to borrow. Why do they need this increase if they have record profits? Their stock price has gone up more than 50 percent since early 2017, so executives and shareholders are doing extremely well.

I will not yet pretend to understand their 14-volume filing to the State Corporation Commission (PUR-2018-00013), which talks vaguely about “infrastructure” improvements. But I do know that pipeline companies have historically increased rates to customers while pocketing a 14-15 percent profit for themselves. How does this benefit Roanoke Gas customers, more than 90 percent of them residential?

The price increase takes effect on January 1, 2019, just in time for winter, when people of all income levels use the greatest amount of fuel for heating.

Individual actions matter. In this season of joy and the contemplation of what is really important in life, let’s hope that some of the people currently playing the role of Mr. Potter will realize that it is never too late to become the character George Bailey, helping the entire community instead of lining a few silk pockets.


Stream crossing issues are complicating work on the Mountain Valley Pipeline | Roanoke Times, December 22, 2018

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Blue Ridge Land December 23, 2018 at 4:44 am


Natural Gas Pipeline Projects, Appalachian Region

In fall of 2014, the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy passed a resolution to oppose the impacts of the Mountain Valley Pipeline on conserved lands, designated Wilderness Areas, the Appalachian Trail, and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The land conservancy successfully petitioned Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC to remove its pipeline route from four lands protected by conservation agreements with BRLC.

We have also diligently petitioned Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC and our state and federal officials to adhere to- and when necessary go above and beyond- state and federal laws controlling erosion and sediment requirements for this unprecedented private infrastructure project.

Blue Ridge Land Conservancy executive director, David Perry, serves as the chairperson of the Roanoke County pipeline advisory committee. Land conservancy staff and volunteers have participated in numerous public meetings and listening sessions with elected officials since fall 2014. Land conservancy president-elect Diana Christopulos has been an active and essential advocate for ensuring both the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia take every step possible to ensure the safety of public and private lands, conserved lands, rivers, streams, and drinking water, should the pipeline be constructed.

As the fate of the Mountain Valley Pipeline plays out in the courts, the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy will continue to advocate on behalf of our region’s natural resources and its private landowners.


Maury Johnson December 23, 2018 at 10:00 am

Thank you Diana, Here is my responce to your Letter.

“In the New Testament of the Bible, there is an idiom about a “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” which was later tuned into one of Aesop’s most known fables. This tale is of a “wolf” who is set on destroying the “sheep” while pretending to be just “one of the sheep” and appears to be harmless. The MVP as well as the ACP are classic examples of the “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” that Aesop and Jesus warned us about. Please do not believe the lies told by these corporate “wolves” as they are only concerned about their profits and are not really concerned about the well being of the “sheep”, the citizens of WV, VA and NC whose property, water, environment and safety are being destroyed.”

Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holiday’s to All

Maury Johnson


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