Mother Jones Reports on the Mountain Valley Pipeline Protesters— Part 1

by Duane Nichols on May 28, 2020

Theresa Terry stayed in this “tree house” for three weeks protesting the MVP

How a “Bunch of Badass Queer Anarchists” Are Teaming Up With Locals to Block a Pipeline Through Appalachia

From an Article by Mason Adams, Mother Jones Magazine, 5/25/20

Life in these mountains ain’t always been easy, so people around here take a stand when they see something they don’t agree with—and I’m one of them,” says walrus-mustached Jammie Hale in his thick southwestern Virginia mountain accent. “People that grow up in places like this, seeing their environment destroyed, it stirs them, it causes people to want to get involved, and that’s why I’m here.”

In a documentary-style video produced by Unicorn Riot, a left-wing media collective, in 2018, Hale explains his decision to join a protest movement taking on the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), a 303-mile long, nearly 42-inch-wide pipeline intended to move natural gas from the fracking fields of northern West Virginia to a terminal in southern Virginia that connects to markets and export terminals on the East Coast.

Settled in among the hardwood trees on Peters Mountain, near where he’s been occupying an aerial platform with another (pseudonymous) activist known as Nutty, he talks of his family’s 150-plus years in Giles County, Virginia, and how that history motivates him to do all he can to prevent the pipeline from crossing the Appalachian Trail.

Yellow Finch, as the encampment has come to be called, is giving its full-time activists, most of whom are in their 20s, an on-the-ground education in Appalachian direct action. They’re learning how to talk to media, to establish and maintain a defensible blockade in the forest, and to survive a winter in the mountains, all in a region written off by much of the US as “Trump country.”

Less explored is the region’s significant history of activism that brought together outsiders and locals to resist corporate exploitation, from the labor organizing by Mary Harris “Mother” Jones on behalf of West Virginia miners in the 1910s and ’20s, to the Mountain Justice campaign against mountaintop removal coal mining a century later. Some veterans of the latter campaign are now working with the folks at Yellow Finch, applying lessons learned in the current fight against fossil fuels.

The camp lies at the base of the steep Blue Ridge Plateau; to reach it, you must drive carefully up a twisting mountain backroad and then back down a dirt road that follows a stream. Steep slopes rise up on either side, and the contrast between sides of the hollow stand as a testament to the activists’ success in delaying pipeline construction. On one side, the forest has been stripped bare, replanted with grass, and shored up with silt fences and green, mulch-stuffed fabric socks to prevent erosion. The other side of the hollow, home to the Yellow Finch encampment, remains wooded.

The camp is set about 50 yards up from the road, firmly planted into the hillside. A couple of hastily erected plywood buildings covered in handmade art and cardboard signs serve as a sleeping area and pantry. Tarps nailed to the side of the bunkhouse and nearby trees cover a makeshift kitchen, scattered with dishes, cooking gear, herbal tinctures, nutritional yeast, and other supplies.

The number of activists that call the camp home fluctuates with the weather and the need for additional people to sustain the camp. A 27-year-old activist called Gator fondly describes the camp’s occupants as “a bunch of badass queer anarchists that held it down for a long period of time.” They come from all over and vary in age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and family backgrounds, but they’re united in their desire to protect the mountains.

They found the camp through a variety of paths; several cut their teeth in other movements, organizing against the mining of frac sand, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, mass incarceration, and police violence. They discovered Yellow Finch through word of mouth, on news sites popular with anarchists like It’s Going Down and Unicorn Riot, and Appalachians Against Pipelines, the campaign’s quasi-official Facebook page. Several came after seeing the video that featured Hale.

§ To be continued as Part 2.


See also: Judge dismisses lawsuit that contested Mountain Valley’s power of eminent domainArticle by Laurence Hammack, Roanoke Times, May 14, 2020

Legal action has failed, once again, to undo the taking of private land for a natural gas pipeline through Southwest Virginia. “This case presents the latest trickle in a veritable flood of litigation” against the Mountain Valley Pipeline, U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg wrote in an opinion last week dismissing the lawsuit.

Three couples with land in the pipeline’s path had sued Mountain Valley and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, alleging that the commission should not have given a corporate venture the right to seize their property by eminent domain.


Three sets of permits — for the pipeline to pass through the Jefferson National Forest, to cross hundreds of streams and wetlands, and to be built in a way that does not jeopardize endangered species — were set aside after lawsuits were filed by environmental groups.

Construction is currently stalled as Mountain Valley works to regain permits from a variety of federal agencies. Executives with EQM Midstream, the lead partner in a joint venture of five energy companies building the pipeline, said in a conference call Thursday that there was still a “narrow path” to their goal of completing the project by the end of the year.

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Roanoke News May 28, 2020 at 11:17 am

Mountain Valley drops 1 person from tree-sit case, Roanoke Times, May 15, 2020

Occupants of the tree stands have changed over time, and their identities have often remained unknown to pipeline officials.

Although Mountain Valley has referred to “tree sitter 1” and “tree sitter 2” in its request for an injunction, the company has named some of the approximately 15 protesters it has sued.

Security workers for the pipeline identified Jordan Romeo as being in one of the tree stands in the pipeline’s right of way off Yellow Finch Lane near Elliston last Aug. 6.

However, Romeo maintains she was at work in Durango, Colorado, that day, and has cellphone records and the testimony of coworkers to back her up, her attorneys wrote in October in a motion to dismiss her from the case.


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