West Virginia

Potomac Pipeline

Big Oil always seems to find a way to threaten the environmental health of our communities, whether it be in the form of spills or through fracking. One of the most recent threats is from pipelines, which yield negative impacts from its construction and maintenance. An analysis by Richard Stover, Ph.D, found that, since 1986, pipeline accidents have spilled an average of 76,000 barrels of oil per year, which is equivalent to 200 barrels every day.

The highly-publicized controversy of the Dakota Access Pipeline was a grave reminder of how vehemently the public opposes pipelines, and the lengths these billion-dollar oil companies will go to undermine these efforts.

In the Chesapeake watershed, a familiar figure to environmental injustice, foreign oil superpower TransCanada aims to run a fracked-gas pipeline from Bedford, PA, under the Potomac River and to Morgan County, WV. As one of the companies behind the Dakota Access Pipeline, TransCanada will yet again be putting communities at risk with this “Eastern Panhandle Expansion Project.”

via Skytruth.org

via Skytruth.org

This proposed pipeline poses immense threats to water quality and public health, which is why this pipeline project must be stopped.

Pipeline Effects Clean Drinking Water For Millions

The Potomac River is a source of water for six million people, so it should make sense to most that a fracked-gas pipeline has no place being built under such a vital resource. TransCanada spilled nearly 17,000 gallons of oil onto rural land last year, and had two other leaking incidents in 2011. The construction alone could put area wells at great risk as well. Placing trust in TransCanada to safely build and maintain an oil pipeline under the Potomac would be putting clean drinking water for millions at risk.

Pipeline Would Run Through Vulnerable Karst Geology

via Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey

via Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey

Karst topography is a sensitive geology characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves. Easily susceptible to the transmission of pollutants through connected underground aquifers, Karst allows for the easy migration of pollutants into aquifers that run into the Potomac River. Hydraulic directional drilling under streams in this geology will create pathways for water to drain down and dissolve the limestone around the pining. This drilling can create sinkholes that would put the pipeline at risk, and can cause subterranean ruptures and even explosions. 

Pipeline Is An Example of TransCanada Using Misleading Tactics

TransCanada would have you believe that this pipeline is a necessity and that it would bring jobs to the area, but these are just outright lies. The construction of this pipeline would employ out-of-town workers, and the positions would be temporary. The application for this project also includes no evidence for a "need" for natural gas in the Eastern Panhandle, yet TransCanada continues to move along with the project. Using age-old scare tactics that have displaced many landowners in the past, TransCanada has been facing landowners and farmers with the dilemma of willingly selling their land or having their land seized through eminent domain.

Say NO to the Potomac Pipeline

via No Potomac Pipeline Facebook

via No Potomac Pipeline Facebook

Just because TransCanada thinks it has the right to build this dangerous pipeline, doesn't mean we have to stand by and let them. The #NoPotomacPipeline campaign, initiated by the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, is already in full swing with the support of a few other organizations. Many of the same members of the "Don't Frack In Maryland" campaign — who saw victory in their efforts to ban fracking in Maryland though legislation and garnering support from Gov. Larry Hogan — are fighting to stop the construction of this pipeline.

Once again, Gov. Hogan holds great power in this situation, as he has the authority to reject the Section 401 Water Quality Certification for this project under the Clean Water Act. Although he did end up passing the legislation that the "Don't Frack" movement supported, we need to ensure he'll support us again by making our voices heard. A few weeks ago, hundreds of Marylanders and West Virginians united to demonstrate their resistance to the pipeline. Standing hand in hand on the James Rumsey Bridge, the "Hands Across the Potomac" demonstration was a reassuring display of unity against faceless corporations. We hope Hogan saw this demonstration and heard the voices of those who will be directly affected.

If you want to ensure that your voice is heard on this matter and would like to join the #NoPotomacPipeline movement, we suggest signing up for our partners' action alerts. The Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Waterkeepers Chesapeake are two organizations that are providing great resources to get dissenters of the pipeline involved.

On Monday, November 8th, those organizations will be hosting a meeting at the Washington County Free Library to discuss the pipeline and volunteering opportunities. Those who are interested can RSVP to the free event, which will take place from 6:30pm-8pm. 

Like the symbolic joining of hands on the James Rumsey Bridge, we must all join forces to stand up to Big Oil and Gas. We've won battles like this before, and we must work to make sure we do it again.

Joe DeWitt is a communications intern with the Choose Clean Water Coalition. 

West Virginia Rivers Coalition Launches Youth Engagement Project

Environmental stewardship youth engagement programs aren’t what they used to be. A generation ago, most kids grew up spending lots of free time outdoors—those connections to nature are how many people first learn environmental ethics. And back then, there weren’t so many exciting activities competing for teens’ attention. Environmental educators and mentors have had to change their approaches.

So when West Virginia Rivers Coalition planned a pilot youth engagement program focusing on two Chesapeake Bay tributaries, we did three things before we put pen to paper. First, because our goal was to use youth engagement to help build watershed groups' capacity, we surveyed our Choose Clean Water Coalition watershed partners in the Eastern Panhandle. They said they needed help reaching out to young people and their parents. They hoped teens would be ambassadors to other teens and parents.

Then we queried young adult leaders of youth programs to get their advice. The takeaways there: Empower teens to be self-directed, and incorporate technology.

Finally, we teamed up with two amazing West Virginia Choose Clean Water Coalition partners, Warm Springs Watershed Association (WSWA) and Friends of the Cacapon River (FCR). Together, we set about trying to create a program that could be replicated across the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The resulting program is OneWatershed, a scheme to empower youth as ambassadors and leaders that we marketed as a film school. Our recruitment invitation says it all: “Are you an aspiring storyteller or filmmaker? Want to learn to make films and produce news by telling the stories of Warm Springs Run and the Cacapon?

Our planning team identified a terrific retired television producer, Jack Kelly. Jack’s first idea was to dump any notion of using conventional cameras. “If we want kids to make films on their own, and upload those films the web,” he said, “we’ve got to train them how to use those things in their pockets or backpack.”

Those “things,” of course, are phones and tablets.

And so Jack, WSWA’s Kate Lehman and the FCR’s Rachel D’Agostino planned out a weeklong film camp. In addition to the technical elements of filmmaking and editing, the workshop hosted people with stories to tell: a sportsman whose life has been enriched by the Cacapon, a retired sewage treatment plan operator, a local fifth generation business owner, and more.

WSWA and FCR took on the task of helping to identify these interview subjects. They also recruited watershed experts from agencies and nonprofits to present on watershed topics for a short time each morning—sessions which sparked curiosity in our filmmakers.

Each group also planned events that could be filmed for stories. For example, WSWA conducted a stream monitoring program that was filmed by students.

On the first day of camp, when it was time to set up the iPads, I asked if any of the kids has an Apple ID. “Duh. . .” Of course they did. Did we give them instructions on setting up their new “cameras”? No, of course we didn’t. Did they take to creating stories about streams and the connections between people and water? Indeed, like fish in water, they needed no help learning to swim.

Seven teens attended the pilot program. They all say they learned way more than they thought they would. But it’s safe to say we adults learned so much more from our teen filmmakers: about how kids naturally know how to collaborate with people different from them; about how they are capable of using technology to explore being human—not detract from it; and how their approaches to environmental stewardship are going to different than their parents’, and that’s okay.

We’re sorting through the practical lessons of the pilot, especially how the model can be both effective and replicated watershed to watershed. We look forward to sharing those ideas with the Choose Clean Water Coalition community.

In the meantime, have a look at some of our short videos at www.wvrivers.org/news/onewatershed.