Heartwood’s Unseen Presence Instrumental in Stopping Natural Gas Pipelines

By Matt Peters
In December 24, 2018

by Ernie Reed, Heartwood family

Here in Virginia, the specter of two proposed natural gas pipelines, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline  (ACP) and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) looms large.  Over 4 ½ years ago, when the public first got wind of them, virtually no one in Virginia had any experience or knowledge of how to combat the threat.

Fast forward to today and the ACP has had 4 federal permits vacated by Federal Courts and the MVP builders have publicly speculated the “the MVP may not ever get built.” Unprecedented community organizing and advocacy, collaborative teams of attorneys and organizations, local resistance and citizen monitors have ground these projects to a virtual halt.  Although it is too soon to predict the ultimate outcome, hundreds of miles of pipeline in 3 states have yet to be built and hundreds of properties and miles of national forest have, thus far, been spared.

Few saw this coming, including state and federal regulators, environmental and climate activists and local elected boards. 

Why have we had success in fighting these where other efforts in other areas has failed?  Well I would like to point out that Heartwood’s influence has been instrumental.

Heartwood is a unique beast in the world of forest, ecosystem and community advocacy.   As a family of individuals with deep relationships in their respective organizations and communities, it consists of a body of experiences, knowledge and skills that transcends the usual environmental organizational model.

At the moment that the news broke that these two pipelines were in the works, a forest protection gathering of individuals from across the US were in Kentucky, discussing strategy and tactics for forest protection.  The meeting, organized by Jim Scheff and Tina Marie Johnson of Kentucky Heartwood, was a model of what Heartwood does best:  namely bringing individuals, skills and strategies together that makes the whole much stronger than the sum of its parts.

Ryan Talbott and Bill Belitskus from Allegheny Defense Project already had logged years fighting pipelines in Pennsylvania.  When the news broke of these new pipelines, individuals from Wild Virginia and the Southern Environmental Law Center were in their presence and could share some cursory knowledge of their battles.  And we had their experience to build on.

Heartwood has always brought together advocates who don’t necessarily share strategies and tactics since they operate in different watersheds, ecosystems and political arenas.  But we share a mutual respect for each other and for the natural world that ties us together. And we know how to organize and mobilize energies, and when to push forward and when to step back and let the local groups get the grants, the experience and the successes what Heartwood has somehow facilitated.

Heartwood provided a foundation for us in our pipeline fights.  Heartwood gives us the experience to resist the desecration of our National Forest lands.  And Heartwood generously gifts us the knowledge to know how and when to push forward and where the lines of resistance can be drawn.

And although Heartwood lacks the paid staff, the vast membership and the accolades that well-heeled groups have, it provides for what we have found there is no substitute.  Thank you all for all you do, for your work and for your support. We, in Virginia, are forever grateful.

Ernie Reed

Heartwood Family

Nelson County, Virginia