On Thursday night, The Lyric Theatre in downtown Blacksburg premiered the documentary “Pipeline Fighters” to a packed audience.
The film focuses on the proposed Mountain Valley pipeline, a natural gas pipeline system that would span approximately 300 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia.
Producer and director Marino Colmano became interested in the project because he felt strongly about the environmental impacts of the pipeline and wanted to raise awareness.
“These 98 minutes were really my best way of speaking about the issue,” Colmano said. “I made this movie for you folks and for everybody out there who needs additional awareness or a call to action.”
Many citizens from across the affected areas of Virginia and West Virginia were featured in the film, including Blacksburg residents. Many share feelings of concern about how their own health and safety may be affected by the construction of the pipeline. Among the concerned parties was Blacksburg resident David Seriff.
“The U.S. Geological Survey referred to ground water sampling and ground water quality criteria. This is critical for anyone with a well because it's karst terrain where we live, we know that contaminants can travel from many miles away from the pipeline route,” Seriff said. “So in the original report they stated, ‘Post-construction water quality evaluations are to be provided only after owner complaint.’ That means in other words, we don’t find out about problems until we’re already poisoned.”
Many people featured in the film echo Seriff’s sentiments. Environmental concerns were also a popular point of discussion in the documentary.
“I just want to give you some excerpts from this report because I really think it’s eye-opening. First of all, this came from the U.S Forest Service. They said, ‘Contradictory, incomplete or incorrect information appears in the environmental report. The major categories for analysis are either missing or incomplete,’” Seriff said. “This is the kind of work the Mountain Valley Pipeline has done. (The U.S. Forest Service) said, ‘Overall, the national parks service finds the impact analysis of the environmental statement inadequate as it relates to the Appalachian Trail.’”
Parts of the Appalachian Trail cross with the proposed route of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and many worry about the adverse effects that the pipeline could have on the trail. It is believed that the proposed pipeline would detract from the scenic landscape, irreversibly damaging local ecosystems and potentially leading to millions of dollars in lost revenue for communities that rely on outdoor recreation-based tourism, among other issues.
“Now MVP has repeatedly said they were going to be very careful and make sure that they limit their impact on the Appalachian Trail, but as it turns out, on their report their maps didn’t actually show the correct placement where the trail’s center line is.” Seriff continued. “So, sure. Maybe they’re going to take great care of the Appalachian Trail and not damage it, if they could actually figure out where the hell it is, right?”
Jane Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party and president of the Bold Alliance, a network of rural groups protecting the land and water, was also featured in the film. Kleeb attributed many problems with the pipeline to larger problems with the government.
“For many of these people it’s about protecting their individual property rights, but as Americans, it’s about protecting our constitution. It is outrageous that politicians are not standing by farmers, ranchers, land owners to protect their properties from imminent domain for private gain,” Kleeb said. “In this presidential cycle, you had people like Trump literally saying he loves imminent domain and that he uses it for casinos and parking lots all the time. And then you have others essentially dodging the question, saying that it’s bad, but it’s perfectly fine for a pipeline.”
Kleeb stressed that the fight against the pipeline is far from over, but support from community members makes a big difference
“The reality is, we’re pipeline fighters. We’re not going to stop because we know that we are on the right side of history.”