Angie Rosser: Take communities, health into account with pipelines

At West Virginia Rivers Coalition we believe in speaking the truth.

We give a voice to our mountains, hollows and the rivers that run through them. But most importantly, we speak up for West Virginia’s people and our right to clean, safe water. Recently, when the Charleston Daily Mail ran an editorial attacking West Virginia’s citizens for holding pipeline companies and regulatory agencies accountable for protecting our water, we called them out on their misrepresentations and downright lies. You can read our executive director’s response published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail below.

Originally published in the December 31, 2018 Charleston Gazette-Mail.

The Daily Mail editorial of December 20, (“Build the pipelines, stop the relentless appeals”) is a shameless bit of gaslighting on the true picture of pipeline companies skirting the law.

The editorial blames court-ordered delays in pipeline projects on “green grinches” — people and organizations that attempt to enforce laws to protect public health and the environment when state and federal agencies fail to do so. Clearly, the courts see it differently. If pipeline companies simply adhered to the law, these appeals would have no merit and no courts would vacate faulty permits.

It’s a sad state of affairs that citizens have to watchdog companies and our own government when they take shortcuts and ignore legal requirements that protect West Virginians. Here’s the way real people see it: If the rest of us have to follow the law, why not billion-dollar corporations? Why not our own government? It’s the people who live here, who own the land and drink the water, who stand to pay the price for this lawlessness.

The editorial says it’s the “green grinches” who just don’t care. Let’s look at facts regarding standard of care: In the past year, every major pipeline project received repeated citations for permit violations and damages to our water. These companies took private property through eminent domain. They snubbed requirements in their permit applications. Again, don’t ask the grinches. Ask the courts. Several court decisions affirmed that pipeline companies and permitting agencies have disregarded the law.

The so-called grinches are standing up for West Virginians’ rights to clean water and enjoyment of their property. It shouldn’t be controversial to expect corporations and government agencies to follow their own permits and laws. And that they tell the truth about who benefits and who pays. We all know that out-of-state workers are brought in to build these pipelines, and that the gas will be transported to benefit other states, and that the burdens and costs of non-compliance and environmental damage will fall on West Virginians.

We all want good jobs for our state. We need a healthy environment to attract those jobs. We all deserve a government that lives up to its legal duty to protect us. Without that, we will continue to see what we’ve seen in our state for decades: West Virginians shortchanged by corporations who can ignore the law. And then when they get called on it, they just use their political sway to change the law for their own profit.

It’s time to get beyond the name-calling and do a little truth-telling. It’s time for genuine talk about how to grow West Virginia, how our future prosperity rests on whether people want to live and stay here, and how those people will make their choices based on whether their government upholds our laws to protect them.

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