Image of Crystal Mellow in colorful shirt with sunglasses on her head

Circle of Protection: Gathering to Stop MVP and Protect Our Communities

This guest blog was written by Crystal Mello. Crystal is a Community Organizer with POWHR and lives in Shawsville, Virginia. Header image by Sarah Hazelgrove.

I recently met someone in town who said the Mountain Valley Pipeline will carry petroleum, Roanoke Gas owns 50% of it, and all the jobs from the pipeline are for local folks.

None of this is true. I told them that they must be misunderstood: the MVP will carry fracked gas, it’s owned by the MVP corporation, and the jobs will likely be temporary and filled by mostly out-of-state workers.

I am a Community Organizer with POWHR. My job is to have conversations like this. In my role, I talk to Southwest Virginians about the harms of fossil fuel projects like MVP, the threat of climate change, and the intersectional struggles for racial, economic, and social justice. Community is in my title and at the core of all my work. 

I am a mom and grandmother living in Shawsville, Virginia. The pipeline doesn’t directly impact me, but it could impact my community. In June 2021, the MVP purchased land in Elliston in Montgomery County, near an elementary school and a high school. The fracked gas pipeline runs through the purchased land. There is potential for a new compressor station in Elliston, and we are very concerned that more fossil fuel infrastructure would put our community at risk during potential blowdown events and expose them to pollution from methane. To learn more about the harms caused by compressor stations, check out this blog post.

I’d love to see you on August 13th for the Circle of Protection from 1:00 to 3:00 pm where we will gather community members and advocates, create space for reconnection, form new relationships, healing and testimony, revive the long fighters of MVP and other harmful projects in the area – all in the interest of nurturing existing community protection and welcoming the newcomer as we grow our coalition.

Flyer courtesy of Artivism Virginia

A one-hour program will be led by Pastor Ken Gray of Big Spring Baptist Church in Elliston, featuring music by SWVA favorites Indian Run Stringband, spoken word, powerful local testimony and mutual support, followed by a community potluck meal & fellowship. Please bring your water bottle, sunscreen, a folding/camp chair, a swimsuit if you’d like to swim in the river, a potluck dish (if you wish to), and your face mask!

The event will take place under the park pavilion, rain or shine, in Eastern Montgomery Park (5003 Enterprise Drive, Lafayette, VA 24087). All are welcome, including friends, family, neighbors, community members, pipeline fighters and environmental justice advocates.