LINDSIDE — Protesting the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) in Monroe County has resulted in the first felony charge.
Andrea Preston, deputy circuit clerk for Monroe County Circuit Court, said Holden Dometrius, 22, was charged Thursday with threats of terrorist acts, a felony, after chaining himself to a piece of equipment in the pipeline’s path near Lindside.
He was also charged with three misdemeanors: trespassing, obstructing and injuring/tampering with a vehicle/special mobile equipment.
Preston said his bond was set at $8,000 cash only and Thursday afternoon he remained incarcerated.
According to the group Appalachians Against Pipelines (AAP), Dometrius, of North Carolina, locked himself on equipment on site for nearly five hours Thursday morning on a hill just south of Lindside before being arrested.
“This is the first felony charge in our nonviolent direct action campaign against the Mountain Valley Pipeline,” the AAP said in a statement.
Dometrius was attached to a piece of welding equipment, which was covered with a banner that read, “TO HELL WITH YOUR PERMITS” and “NO BORDERS, NO PRISONS, NO PIPELINES ON STOLEN LAND.”
The MVP is a 303-mile, 42-inch diameter fracked natural gas pipeline that is slated to run from northern West Virginia to southern Virginia, with a 70-mile extension into North Carolina announced in 2018.
Several protesters have attached themselves to equipment before in Monroe County in the MVP’s path, but all charges have been misdemeanors. “Tree sitters” in the pipeline’s path have also been arrested before in both Monroe County and Giles County, Va., resulting in misdemeanor charges.
The AAP organization as well as other environmental groups, both locally and nationally, have protested the pipeline, saying it “endangers water, ecosystems, and communities along its route, contributes to climate change, increases demand for natural gas (and therefore fracking), and is entrenched in corrupt political processes.”
Work on the pipeline was stopped briefly in August 2018 when the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled that the permits from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service to allow the pipeline to go across federal land did not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.
The pipeline construction in Monroe County had to stop before it crossed the Jefferson National Forest on Peters Mountain. The MVP plan was to install the line through the mountain to avoid disturbing the Appalachian Trail, which runs along the top of Peters Mountain.
However, courts gave the okay for work to continue, except on national forest land, later in August to avoid environmental problems at pipeline locations where work had already started.
Recently, the MVP was reported to be looking at rerouting the pipeline in Monroe County and in Giles County to avoid national forest land because that ruling still stands.
Another issue has been the regulations concerning the pipeline crossing bodies of water.
The AAP said Thursday’s protest brought attention to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) decision Wednesday to modify the state’s water quality certification standards “in such a way that will inevitably allow MVP to construct the pipeline across water bodies using a method that had previously been deemed illegal (and which remains extremely dangerous to impacted waterways and communities).”
“This rewriting of laws comes after a federal court put MVP’s streamlined water crossing permit on hold in June of 2018, in response to a motion filed by environmental groups opposed to the pipeline, because the permit plainly violated WVDEP’s own regulations,” the AAP said. “Now that the regulations have been changed to suit MVP’s needs, the company will apply for a new permit and construction across waterways will proceed as soon as possible. The banner seen at today’s action is a reference to this endless, thinly veiled corruption that is embedded in the pipeline approval process.”
According to the AAP, Thursday also marked the 233rd day of two aerial blockades deemed the “Yellow Finch” tree sits in the path of the MVP in some of the last remaining trees along the pipeline’s path outside of Elliston, Va.
In December, MVP filed a request for injunction against the tree sitters, asking a federal judge to have the sitters removed, but a decision has not been made in that case, the AAP said.
Mountain Valley Pipeline recently announced the company’s plan to finish the work and be in service by the end of 2019 is still on track, with a $4.6 billion price tag, up from the original $3.5 billion projection.
“Construction of MVP began in February 2018 and, despite various setbacks and unprecedented weather conditions, we have made substantial progress this year,” Diana Charletta, Chief Operating Officer, Equitrans Midstream Corporation, said in December 2018. “We appreciate the expertise and oversight of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, as well as other state and federal agencies that have helped guide our construction activities. The MVP project team takes its environmental stewardship responsibilities very seriously and we will continue to comply with the laws and regulations related to the safe and responsible construction of our MVP project.”
— Contact Charles Boothe at firstname.lastname@example.org