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Mom/Author Denied Bail After Halting Mountain Valley Pipeline Drilling

Above photo: Appalachians Against Pipelines.

Giles County, VA — Early Monday morning, Appalachian author and mother Madeline ffitch locked herself to a Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) drill on the Virginia side of Peters Mountain in the Jefferson National Forest, preventing MVP from drilling under the Appalachian Trail. Nearby, a rally of supporters gathered on a Forest Service road. Banners at each site read “MOUNTAIN MAMAS SAY NO MVP,” “MOMS OF THE WORLD UNITE – STOP THE PIPELINE,” and “FROM THE RIVER TO THE SEA, FROM THE HOLLERS TO THE HILLS.”

Madeline prevented MVP from using their equipment and drilling under the Appalachian Trail for nearly 8 hours. At that time, she was extracted from her blockade by law enforcement, arrested, and brought to the Giles County Magistrate. She was given trumped up charges including 4 misdemeanors and 1 felony and is being held without bail at the New River Valley Regional Jail.

“I think being a parent has helped me be more fearless, more bold, get my priorities straight with what’s important,” stated Madeline. Madeline is the author of the 2019 novel “Stay and Fight,” a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Ohio Great Reads pick for the 2023 National Book Festival. “I take my cues from other mothers who make great sacrifices everyday to protect their children and families. I’m thinking right now in particular of mothers and families in Gaza trying to protect their children while the bombs are falling, knowing that no one in power is standing up for them and their families like they should. And I also have a huge amount of respect that Appalachian families, especially Appalachian women, have been pushing for years to make sure there is clean water and clean air for their children to drink and breathe in a place that is too often seen as a sacrifice zone. I think mothers have common sense, fearlessness, and a no-nonsense sensibility to bring truth to power.”

Madeline’s action took place on Peters Mountain at the site of the first tree sits that blocked the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline for 95 days in 2018, preventing tree clearing on the easement near the Appalachian Trail. The support rally down the mountain took place at the gate that was held closed by the monopod (another type of aerial blockade) for 57 days in 2018. Both of these actions prevented MVP work in the Jefferson National Forest and kick started a direct action campaign that has been disrupting MVP for nearly 6 years. Since those blockades, MVP has lost their permit to cross National Forest land multiple times; each time, it has been reinstated with no real plan to protect the land, ecosystems, and communities in the pipeline’s path.

Erika, also a mother, stated the following in support of Madeline’s action: “I’m part of this movement because of the future generations. Mountain Valley Pipeline is one of many pipelines that are being built around the country, around the world, and they are poisoning the land and the water. We are leaving a destroyed world for the future generations. If we don’t resist the poisoning of the water and the earth, then we’re handing over a dead world to our children.”

Recently, Mountain Valley Pipeline again delayed the projected in-service date for their $7.2 billion pipeline to 2024. The pipeline is now $3.7 billion over budget and nearly 6 years behind schedule. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is a 42-inch diameter fracked gas pipeline that would cover 303 miles of Appalachia if completed. The project has a long record of hundreds of environmental violations and court battles about failures to hold on to key permits, and is emblematic of both the struggle to transition away from fossil fuels and the short-sighted destruction of local communities, water supplies, and ecosystems in the name of gas export and fossil fuel company profit. In June 2023, the pipeline was fast-tracked by Congress, despite local residents voicing their opposition and concerns.

Mountain Valley Pipeline has recently escalated its legal intimidation of pipeline fighters, filing numerous Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP suits) and collaborating with local law enforcement in multiple jurisdictions to charge protesters with erroneous felonies to discourage resistance. The pipeline resistance, including Madeline, refuses to be intimidated and continues to fight to protect Appalachia from this toxic and disastrous pipeline.

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