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POWHR Newsletter

We hope you are having a wonderful holiday season! Here's what we've got for you this week. Hope you get to read this newsletter with a steaming cup of coffee and a favorite book nearby! 

1. A Project for the People: the final blog in our Year-End Guest Blog series is a stirring reflection on the MVP Protest Run and what we're all fighting for, by Katie Thompson. 
2. A last-call for donations in our Winter Appeal! We are blown away by your generosity propelling us into 2022! THANK YOU! 
3. Breaking MVP News + a thorough news writeup to end 2021
4. POWHR is spotlighted in Virginia Organizing's 'Featured Community Groups'
5. Some neat upcoming events! 

A Project for the People 

Katie Thompson runs through the Hans Creek Valley in Monroe County, WV. Photo by Matthew Pickett
The final installment in our Year-End Blog Series is going to make you tear up! MVP Protest Runner Katie Thompson reflects on her experience and how her "why" expanded over the course of the project. She offers readers some tangible answers to the evergreen question "what can I do to help?".
 
Here's a taste: 
"Obviously, the environmental piece can’t be ignored - it’s 70 degrees in December, we should all care about that - but I was surprised that it almost became secondary after we started meeting and talking to people. How can a private company decide what to do with property, our water resources, and biologically diverse Appalachian mountains? If they can manipulate a system for their gain, what does that mean for any of our futures? Empty promises for jobs, not-so-sparkling payouts, “progress” - for what? We had so many thoughtful and sometimes even a little heated conversations in the van. Trying to answer and solve the world’s problems, driving along the winding roads of West Virginia and rural Virginia. Yet, at the end of the day, we’re all just trying to survive. Most of us are living day to day, enjoying moments, as much as we can. Building modest futures for ourselves and our loved ones." 
 
- Katie Thompson 
Read Katie's Blog Here

POWHR's Winter Appeal 

Our winter appeal ends December 31, 2021. With your generosity, we are now over 55% to our goal of $20,000. We appreciate everything you are doing to grow our coalition and work, from donating to sharing and signing up for our newsletter. If a donation is not feasible at this time, can you forward this to a friend and ask them to sign up for our newsletter
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Breaking MVP News

Charleston, WV — Today, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection approved the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s Water Quality Certification, which is a permit required by Section 401 of the Clean Water Act to ensure that a project can meet water quality standards. West Virginia’s approval was required before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers could move forward with dredge-and-fill permits for the pipeline.

Read POWHR's full press release here

News Writeup

There is a lot of news to digest and unpack from the close of 2021. The Center for Western Priorities’ Public Lands and Energy News “Look West” newsletter is one of the most helpful tools we have found to help with unpacking public lands, climate change and energy developments. Their December In Brief newsletter honed in on some key pieces of news, like the White House releasing a first year progress report on the America the Beautiful Initiative to conserve 30% of US lands and waters by 2030. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin continued to withhold support for the $2 trillion Build Back Better Act, and more lawmakers are asking President Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to act fast on reforming public lands drilling.

The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA)
put out a statement following Joe Manchin’s refusal to support BBB, saying “we are disappointed that the bill will not pass. We urge Senator Manchin to revisit his opposition to this legislation and work with his colleagues to pass something that will help keep coal miners working, and have a meaningful impact on our members, their families, and their communities. I also want to reiterate our support for the passage of voting rights legislation as soon as possible, and strongly encourage Senator Manchin and every other Senator to be prepared to do whatever it takes to accomplish that. Anti-democracy legislators and their allies are working every day to roll back the right to vote in America. Failure by the Senate to stand up to that is unacceptable and a dereliction of their duty to the Constitution.”

At odds with the stated aims of the “Climate Order,” Executive Order 14008, “the Biden administration admitted that a court decision did not compel it to lease vast tracts of the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas drilling in a massive lease sale, though it previously claimed it was legally obliged to hold the sale.” As a possible bright spot, in Look West’s December 23rd newsletter, they reported on Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s stated aim to bring forth a “modified version of the [Build Back Better] bill back for a vote in January.”

According to Schumer in
E&E News, this would include "a still-to-be-finalized compromise with Manchin on how to implement a methane fee," but would "scrap the House measure’s permanent ban on all drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and off the Gulf of Mexico." Politico’s Morning Energy newsletter “What does 2022 have in store for climate?” provides a good birds eye view of federal climate change and energy news, but take it with a grain of salt since it’s regularly sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute, Chevron, Exxon, and others. Take a look at Grist's Illustrated Guide to 2021's Pipeline Battles for coverage on Biden's refusal to act on key pipelines, anti protest laws, Indigenous land and water defenders and more. 

Further evidence of the need for sweeping change and a just transition is found in the fact that around half of U.S. oil pipeline capacity is sitting in situ, unutilized. Amidst all the rhetoric and claims of need, half of the current capacity isn’t even being used. Reuters’ story by Stephanie Kelly, ‘About half of U.S. oil pipeline space is empty after boom time building spree’ goes deeper, noting “oil and gas shippers often find themselves building pipelines amid a production boom only to find there is too much capacity when downturns occur.” This message must be heeded by agencies with the power to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline, so Appalachia isn't left with another 300 mile radioactive superfund site on the taxpayer’s dime, when it’s all said and done. 

The Mountain Valley Pipeline faces another legal challenge after the Virginia State Water Control Board approved the Clean Water Act Section 401 for the project. This new legal action was filed by Appalachian Mountain Advocates, representing the Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Wild Virginia, Preserve Craig, Inc., Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, and Preserve Franklin. Preserve Bent Mountain and Preserve Giles County are also parties to the litigation, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center. More information can be found in Appalachian Voices’ December 22 press release. “In the midst of climate catastrophe and rampant environmental injustice by the fossil fuel industry, we will not stand for another unneeded fracked gas pipeline.” said Roberta Bondurant of Preserve Bent Mountain. “We support this challenge to the Virginia State Water Control Board’s decision to grant MVP a water crossing permit that will endanger lives and waters in its path. We put people over profit. We expect no less of our regulators.”

There is no ignoring or mistaking West Virginia’s dire situation and threats from climate change and environmental injustice, despite what one dangerously powerful Senator’s loyalty to coal money over his peoples’ welfare. In E&E News’ ‘Top of the list’: W.Va. faces surprising climate dangers,’ Thomas Frank notes “A recent state-by-state analysis of flood risk found that West Virginia has the highest percentage of roads, commercial properties and infrastructure in danger of being flooded — ahead of every state in the continental U.S., including Florida and Louisiana.”

An expose by ProPublica titled
How Black Communities Become “Sacrifice Zones” for Industrial Air Pollution highlights a West Virginia community called Institute, where “One of the most dangerous chemical plants in America sits in one of West Virginia’s only majority-Black communities. For decades, residents of Institute have raised alarms about air pollution. They say concerns have ‘fallen on deaf ears.’”

Finally, in all of this complex news, here are some resources to help us all deal with the constant cascade of climate anxiety, bad news and uncertainty. If you're not already subscribed to Brit Wray's Generation Dread newsletter, we highly recommend it. Here is her returning issue after maternity leave, "Climate emotions podcast and climate conversations over the holidays". We also encourage you to sign up for our book club, where we'll be discussing Earth Emotions by Glenn Albrecht, and all the complicated emotions about climate change. 

 
POWHR is grateful to be highlighted in Virginia Organizing's latest 'Featured Community Partner' piece. 
 
Here's a taste: 

"Just days later the Virginia State Water Control Board approved a crucial stream crossing permit, dealing the communities along the route a disheartening blow. At moments like these Tuttle stresses that it is important not to give in to nihilism in the face of dire climate predictions and the seeming inevitability that projects like MVP will win. Tuttle says that relationships have helped her through the dark times. 'I am inspired by others’ work and resilience and refusal to give up,' she says.

Tuttle says that, in order for the pipeline fight to succeed, POWHR needs the voices, input, and involvement of community members from across the region. 'Tell us how we can be serving you and how to be better Appalachian leaders in protecting water, creatures, and communities. I need my wider community to take care of themselves so that we can be in this fight for the lifetimes of work it will surely take, and to do so by using your skills and contributing where you feel a mix of passion and duty. Join the movement, in whatever way you can.'"

Read Virginia Organizing's Blog Here

Upcoming Events

  • Wild Virginia Book Club: The Forest Unseen, join Wild Virginia as we celebrate the possibilities of the new year by discussing The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature by David George Haskell. The author observes a single square meter of Tennessee forest over the course of a year and shares how much beauty and wonder can be observed around us if we only take the time to pay attention. Mon, January 10, 2022, 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST. Register here
  • Save the date for the ReImagine Appalachia’s Virtual Strategy Summit for 2022 - January 11th and 12th from 11 a.m. - 1:15 p.m. on both days. Last year we convened through panels and workshops to help guide and create our coalition's 2021 priorities, vision and workplan, with 12 sessions and hundreds of attendees. This year, we hope to receive even more participation to ensure ReImagine Appalachia is creating a 2022 work plan that includes all Appalachian voices! Please join us! Day 1 Panel: Building Appalachia’s Bright Future: What’s next with new opportunities from federal funding? Day 2 Panel: Starting Local: What are lessons from local leaders that can build towards regional excellence? Register for the workshop here
  • Appalachian Voices Presents: Our 2022 Virginia Legislative Agenda - "Virginia has made significant progress in recent years to transition to a just, affordable, and equitable clean energy future. However, there’s more work to be done and much of the progress that has been made in recent years is under threat. In 2022, the Virginia General Assembly will consider a wide variety of bills impacting our priority issues of environmental justice, solar energy, fracked-gas pipelines, just transition and fairness for electricity ratepayers. The legislative session begins January 12. Join us to learn about the issues we are working on this session, and how you can get involved!" Tue. January 11, 2022, 6:00 PM ET. Register here
  • Wild Virginia Presents: How to Use Freedom of Information Laws - "Join Wild Virginia for a workshop on state and federal Freedom of Information Acts (FOIAs) and learn how you can exercise your rights." Mon, January 24, 2022, 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM EST. Register here
  • POWHR Book Club Presents: Earth Emotions - join us on Wednesday, February 16th, 2022 at 7:00 PM ET for this special event. Do you struggle to put your feelings around ecological destruction and climate change into words? Do you feel alone at times in your grief and uncertainty about the future? Does the destruction of a place you love feel like losing part of yourself? Do you want to discuss how we can reinvigorate our biophilia, or 'love of life', to end this crisis? If so, we welcome you to join us for this special event. We will join together over Zoom to discuss Earth Emotions, New Words for a New World by Glenn A. Albrecht. Please join us even if you have not read the book! Please let us know if you need assistance obtaining a copy of this book to read. Please register at this link.
Photo by Matthew Pickett
Donate Now to Support POWHR's Work

Virginia Organizing is a 501(c)(3) organization that accepts grants and donations on behalf of POWHR. Virginia Organizing is officially registered with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, P.O. Box 1163, Richmond, VA 23209. You can write to this Department for all relevant financial statements and procedures regarding the solicitation of contributions. Your donation is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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