In a startling display of fascism masquerading as democracy, Virginia’s State Water Control Board betrayed Virginians and Virginia’s water resources on March 1, 2019. After three and a half hours in a closed session, they revoked the motion made and passed on December 13, 2018 to hold hearings regarding revocation of the 401 water quality certification for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). The MVP, a 42 inch fracked gas pipeline, is currently being blasted, drilled and dug through unstable karst geology, fragile wetlands and watersheds of Appalachia. The MVP is also currently under criminal investigation and has racked up over 300 violations, poisoning Virginia’s waterways, wells and groundwater with excess sediment and industrial waste that they promised to control (and have since failed to do) during the hearing process to approve the 401 water quality certifications.
The bloated and exaggerated militarized police presence was an outragous waste of public resources as well as an abuse of power by the State in protection of the MVP’s profit margin, meant to intimidate the citizenry in the room, which consisted of mostly middle-aged women. The MVP executives also had private body guards for protection. When asked about the threat assessment used to justify the need for private security, the security company’s lead quoted other companies he worked for having chairs thrown at them. Seems a rather weak justification, given that there has never been any violence at the SWCB meetings, unless you consider the violence perpetrated by police against the citizens when throwing them out of a public forum. One quarter of the room was stacked with paid, out of work, pipeline workers, as if to blame pipeline opponents for their unemployment and to assert that their right to work in the extraction industry trumps Virginian’s rights to clean water.
Public comment was not allowed. Silenced citizens spoke by wearing shirts that read “Our Water Our Lives” on the front and “Water Protector” on the back. “Stop Work Now” banners were worn as clothing and stickers over mouths to drive home the message that the board has the authority to stop the destruction at any time and no right to silence affected Virginians. Citizen after citizen was ejected from the room for questioning the board’s legal argument as well as ethical and moral standards of the board members.
One thing is clear, Virginia’s water protectors will not stand by and allow corporations to poison water for profit. Any system which makes this form of genocide legal, is not a system worth a damn.