Pick Your Poison: MVP Threatens Health

In this revealing presentation, Dr. Tina Smusz describes the dangers to public health inflicted on communities by construction and operation of fracked gas pipelines and compressor stations.


Every stage of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, from tree clearing through construction and operation, carries pollution. However, it has the most serious consequences for pregnant women, their fetuses, children, and the elderly. Construction creates volatile organic compounds, dust, particulate matter and diesel spills. Operation of the pipeline brings methane leaks, compressor station emissions and high radon levels in the transported fracked gas.

Dr. Smusz has sounded the alarm about the threats to water and health from the Mountain Valley Pipeline in letters to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and presentations to The Virginia State Water Control Board and county governments along the route, and in multiple forums for health professionals. Her warnings have been irresponsibly ignored by regulatory bodies in favor of industry needs and at high cost to public safety. View the entire presentation above and then call your elected representatives in Congress and demand that FERC grant a rehearing based on the commission’s refusal to truly consider public health and public input when recklessly granting Mountain Valley’s Certificate of Necessity and Convenience. Corporate profiteers cannot be allowed unchecked expansion of sacrifice zones in Virginia and West Virginia at the expense of citizens who will be exposed to these deadly poisons and ever present threat of explosion.

Natural Gas Health Impacts Symposium from Physicians for Social Responsibility

Citizen Voices: Marge Lewter

Published with permission from Marge Lewter of Craig County, Virginia.

Dear Governor Northam,

I supported you in the recent election because I knew you were an honest and concerned person. I know you recently met with the Virginia DEQ supporting their PROTECTION and PRESERVATION of our water supplies.

I plead with you to take a moment to see what devastating activities are happening already with the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Virginia. The last minute tree pipeline clearing, the restrictions on citizens from being on their own property and in the national forest, the blatant disregard for deadlines and the changing of the restrictions agreed upon by FERC and the Forest Service is just an example of what is to come. They have not started excavating yet and it is not too late for you to stop this process!

All three river systems in Virginia will be affected by the impending sedimentation, not to mention the disruption of our natural pure water in the underground karst reservoir in western VA.

Another recent example of the disregard for anything else but their own agenda is the FERC has allowed changing the deadlines for tree clearing with disregard for previously agreed upon dates that will affect migratory birds in Virginia.

YOU have the power to step back and take a look at this for the citizens of Virginia. It is your duty and responsibility so please act without delay!



Marjorie M. Lewter, DVM
Craig County Virginia

Citizen Voices: Don Jones

Donald Jones lives in Southwest Virginia and has spoken out extensively against the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Posted with permission.

“Today is March 23, 2018. It’s a sad day for us. Here is the devastation MVP (Mountain Valley Pipeline) left after just one day on our family farm lands that have been in the care of the Jones’s families for 10 generations. Eighty years of growth felled in 8 hours. It’s devastating and heartbreaking.

“Where is the outrage about all of our 5th amendment rights? It is unbelievable in 2018 after so many of our young men and women have courageously given their lives to protect citizen rights across the globe that U S citizens are stripped of basic property rights just for big business profits. MVP doesn’t even have all their permits to build their 42” 1400 psi fracked gas pipeline yet. We are waiting to see if Governor Northam will now hold MVP to the ‘highest standards’ regarding Virginia’s waters.

“Thanks for your patience and endurance for the last 4 years while we were trying to stop this horrendous project from plowing through our beloved Appalachian Mountains. We can’t even bear to think of telling Dad what has happened today. Unfortunately it is his legacy and he will have to be told. We have fallen so pathetically short of his expectations. He was so sure we could win this fight as long as we were on the side of all things good. We were blessed with an opportunity to take him home one more time last week after a community prayer service held in Newport. He was able to look out over his mountains and valleys one more time without this ugly scar scraped across it.

Clear cut trees for fracked gas pipeline.
Devastation on The Jones Family Land in Giles County.

“Lots of prayers will be needed going forward. For Dad. For Virginia and West Virginia. For all of our waters. For our whole planet. For all of our grandchildren’s future legacy. Thanks to the awesome young folks who are now guarding the trees in West Virginia. We are awed by your fortitude and selfless actions. We are still fighting for the day that we see a change in awareness and gratitude for our earthly home. You have our thanks and support. Please support them! They are working from their hearts for good things for all. Please support your local Preserve groups! They have been working tirelessly for 4 long years for their communities not their own back yards. Please support an environmental group! They are dedicated to the work of keeping us from ruining our own world.”


While the devastation continues as MVP cuts our treasured trees and plans for construction, there is still more work to be done. Please consider signing up to be a citizen monitor of MVP’s construction activities in order to hold them accountable for any violations of permits or standards. Additionally, please consider donating to the POWHR Coalition to help continued efforts to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline.


“Like a Graveyard.” MVP Rips Through Forests

Clear cut for Mountain Valley Pipeline
Clear cutting continues across Virginia and West Virginia.

Montgomery County, VA resident and Preserve Montgomery County volunteer Lynda Majors submitted the following account of tree felling devastation in the Brush Mountain and Craig Creek area.

Monday the trees were cut from Craig Creek all the way almost to the top of Brush Mountain. This is in the Inventoried Roadless Area of the Jefferson National Forest.

To actually see it is mouth dropping – the destruction – all trees just dropped in the “Right of Way.”  I could see a car going by tonight on Craig Creek Road from where I was standing at the top. This is what the Forest Service decided to do with the people’s forest, an Inventoried Roadless Area, that was supposed to be preserved forever with no tree cutting or road building.

The Forest Management Plan was developed to preserve the land for wildlife, water, and recreation, not to put a bomb in our backyard and destroy with sedimentation and erosion our streams and water supplies.  This destruction is unconscionable and unfathomable to me.

I am a baby boomer. My generation rebelled against our parents and what they were doing to the world with war and the environment. But now we are doing the same thing and are leaving a world that is not fit for our children to live in. Our cities are running out of water, and our oceans are dying.

We have tried so hard for more than 3 years to prevent our corner of Virginia from being another corporate wasteland but we get rolled over at every turn, not because we don’t have science on our side, but because the influence of money is more powerful than science at every level from DEQ to VMRC to BLM to USFS to two Governors and multiple judges.

It is horribly sad for me to realize that the government at every level is against the citizens and our participatory democracy is in name only.

Take action: Volunteer to monitor MVP activity in your area.

Brush Mountain Clear Cut for pipeline.
“It’s like a graveyard. Is there no stopping this madness?” -Brush Mountain resident.

Citizen Voices: Letter to Governor Northam

Published here, with permission of the author, is one of hundreds of letters and statements sent to public officials from citizens who are deeply concerned that public input on Mountain Valley Pipeline is being ignored. We urge citizens of Virginia and West Virginia to keep up the pressure by calling and writing to elected officials to demand that state agencies use their authority to protect communities from disaster before it happens.

January 23, 2018
Honorable Ralph Northam
Governor of Virginia

c/o Clark Mercer, Chief of Staff

Re: Citizens are desperate for unbiased state actions regarding the pipeline proposals

Dear Governor Northam,

I write today to implore you to immediately take action to restore citizens’ faith that our state government is committed to protecting the rights and well-being of Virginia citizens in all actions taken regarding the current natural gas pipeline proposals (MVP and ACP). I write as both a scientist who is dismayed by the incomplete agency assessments of the potential major damage that these projects will undoubtedly do to our precious water resources, and as a citizen who has seen the well-being, health, and even survival of my neighbors severely impacted by the stress of dealing with these issues.

My Credentials

First, I will tell you my scientific background that qualifies me to comment on the potential environmental effects of these projects. I am a natural resources scientist, with more than 40 years of research and teaching experience in natural resource conservation and management at three major research universities (Texas Tech University, Texas A&M University, and now Virginia Tech). I hold university degrees in biological sciences, environmental toxicology and contamination, and aquatic/fisheries science.  I have conducted research on aquatic/fisheries science in five U.S. states and on 3 continents. I was recognized with a Senior International Professorship for Visiting Scientists by the Chinese Academy of Sciences for my work to help them assess and manage freshwater systems in China.  Similarly, I have been active in research and outreach for aquatic conservation in Brazil, which is Virginia’s partner in the Partners of the Americas program inspired by President Kennedy. I am the current Second Vice President of the American Fisheries Society, the world’s oldest professional society for natural resources conservation (begun in 1870). I am a Certified Fisheries Professional (American Fisheries Society), and a Fellow of both the American Fisheries Society and the American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists. My comments here represent my professional opinions based on this long career in natural resources conservation and management, and do not represent any official position of the agencies and organizations mentioned here.

State Agencies Have Lost Public Trust

Actions by various state agencies in reviewing the pipeline proposals have led to a loss of public trust. Numerous filings with state agencies and the FERC by highly qualified scientists who described the great potential for irreparable harm to Virginia’s aquatic resources primarily have been ignored, degrading both the scientific credibility of these agencies and the trust of the public in them. The MVP and ACP projects present major threats to the quality of water resources in Virginia that are critical to public and private water supplies; the tourism and water-based recreation economies; and the quality of life, well-being, and health of Virginia citizens.

Former Governor McAuliffe was an ardent supporter of these pipeline projects, but he promised that the proposals would be fully vetted in science-based reviews and only permitted if shown to offer no threat to the environmental quality of the Commonwealth. You made similar comments during your campaign. The clear truth evident to unbiased scientists is that such science-based assessment has never been fully performed by what are now your state agencies. Your DEQ, the very agency charged with protecting Virginia’s environment for our citizens, started by claiming they were too underfunded to conduct thorough reviews, then they deferred to federal agencies who had conducted inadequate and sometimes secret evaluations (i.e., the FERC, the Army Corps of Engineers, the US Forest Service, and the BLM). Finally, DEQ declared that the projects presented no threat of long-term damage to Virginia’s environment, and they pressured the State Water Control Board to approve the projects even though these corporations had neither completed nor filed final plans for erosion and sediment control. These agency actions strain scientific credulity, and make citizens suspect that corporate pressure has played an undue role in these decisions.

Lack of Evidence that Pipelines Can be Built Safely

In contrast to DEQ’s assurances, any credible soil scientist will tell you that allowing these pipelines to cross severe mountain slopes presents a major threat to water quality, and related quality of life, in Virginia. No major pipeline has ever crossed the Appalachian Mountains in this area, and for good reason. The current projects propose to cross slopes that exceed 60%, and even 80% in some locations. Any soil scientist can tell you that no proven techniques exist to prevent erosion on such severe slopes.  Similar projects on less-severe slopes have failed despite erosion safeguards that far exceed what MVP and ACP propose, and those failures resulted in severe erosion, degradation of water quality, and the mortality of endangered freshwater species. FERC and DEQ were fully informed of these previous failures, but they have never even addressed them. The proposed projects will clear and excavate a wide path straight up and down steep mountain slopes, in areas where landowners and even the Forest Service do not harvest trees due to the slope. Federal guidelines for road building in wilderness areas prohibit construction of roads that exceed 24% slope due to erosion threats. Why will FERC and DEQ allow even more severe construction actions on slopes that exceed three times that severity? Every farmer knows to plow along hillside contours, not straight across them. That was one of the major soil conservation measures instituted during the Dust Bowl almost a century ago. Why are our state and federal governments going to allow Dominion and MVP to violate this basic conservation measure, and damage our local water supplies forever? The cost of such damage to just the public water supplies of Roanoke County and the Cities of Salem and Roanoke has already been projected to number in the tens of millions, and the costs to private water supplies (wells and springs) has never even been calculated.

Citizens Are Already Dying

Thousands of Virginians have been threatened by these pipeline projects with loss of their property, their dreams, their health, and even their livelihoods. I personally know numerous neighbors in Craig, Giles, and Montgomery Counties who have suffered severe medical traumas as a result of stress created by these threats related to the MVP, in which they feel your state government is complicit. I know numerous neighbors who have suffered strokes and heart attacks due to this stress, and at least one neighbor suffered a fatal heart attack. Even though the pipelines will not cross my own property, I myself suffered a stroke from the stress of researching the environmental threats and filing numerous comments with state and federal agencies to try to help my neighbors. Every resident of Newport (Giles County) feels personally threatened by the fact that the MVP will be routed through the very center of their community. They worry about the threat of explosion on a pipeline that will pass within tens of feet of their residences, and a few hundred feet of an historic and active church, a daycare center, a public library, a community center, and even their rescue squad. They worry about their household water sources, to which the DEQ Director flippantly responded that they would just need to find a new water source. The pipeline will forever impact the character of numerous historic sites in their county. As one example, a wedding venue at an historic apple farm on Salt Pond Mountain effectively will be put out of business for several years and will never return to its current condition. Virginia citizens are suffering real losses, both financially and health-wise. They legitimately wonder why their state government is allowing this to happen, seemingly for the sole financial benefit of an out-of-state corporation.

Other States have Taken Steps to Protect Their Citizens, Why Not Virginia?

I speak for thousands of Virginians when I ask you to take steps now to freeze actions on approvals for the pipelines until solid, science-based assessments can be completed. Such assessments are still lacking, and any agency that claims they have done such is not being honest with the public. We have seen the State of New York deny permits for several pipelines because of insufficient evidence that environmental protections will be adequate.  North Carolina has delayed action on permitting the same ACP that Virginia has approved, citing inadequate support for the proposal.

It is clear to citizens and scientists that Virginia has approved permits based on inadequate study. NOW IS THE TIME TO CORRECT THAT OVERSIGHT, AND RESTORE TRUST IN VIRGINIA’S GOVERNMENT.


There are numerous qualified scientists in Virginia, outside of your agencies, that can advise you and the agencies on the critical assessments that have not been fully performed. Why not tap these scientists to create an advisory board that can help oversee effective project assessment, to protect our valuable natural resources and restore trust in state government? Virginia’s citizens deserve no less.


Brian R. Murphy, Ph.D.

New Castle, VA