CAAV Coalition Partner of the Month: Joshua Vana of RAPTORS
January 16, 2018
A native of Maryland, Josh arrived in Harrisonburg to acquire a degree in Justice Studies from James Madison University. A fine guitarist, he currently performs with Nora Jane Struthers’ supporting band, The Party Line. A little over a year ago, Appalachian Voices’ Virginia Field Organizer Lara Mack held a couple of anti-pipeline solidarity interest meetings in Harrisonburg. Out of these was born the Rockingham Alliance for the Protection and Transformation of Our Resources and Society (RAPTORS) with Josh as a founding member and chief organizer. Josh knew Lara from their days of working together at the iconic Little Grill Collective, of which they have both been worker-owners. RAPTORS was formed to address concerns over the Standing Rock pipeline conflict in the Dakotas, and to bring those concerns to the local area to fight the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. The goal of the group is to increase awareness of these issues locally and to act in solidarity with all those working on pipeline issues statewide and possibly beyond into North and South Carolina.
He notes that long term, it is difficult for the group to maintain the sense of urgency with which they began, but the fact that communities and owners of land that the pipelines will cross now have their backs against the wall helps to keep them focused. The agencies in place ostensibly to protect communities appear instead to have “railroaded” the issue to support Dominion Energy and other corporate and private interests.
That said, the pipelines have not yet been built, and construction is not yet certain. Until they are constructed RAPTORS is still attempting to delay and prevent that. One piece of good news is that Senator Kaine recently recommended that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) re-conduct hearings on both pipelines. At the time FERC gave approval, the Board was down by two members, and it was a 2 to 1 vote. Kaine also asked about “tolling orders” on the pipelines: a set of FERC guidelines for the preconstruction work that must be done. These orders are unclear, especially as regards eminent domain issues. They are also contradictory: by example, they prohibit “land disturbing activity” but allow felling trees, which is certainly “land disturbing”.
Recognition of the political muscle of Dominion Energy is increasingly recognized and opposed, particularly by aspiring young politicians like Sam Rasoul and Brent Finnegan. (Note: CAAV steering committee member Alleyn Harned intends to research allies of Dominion and legislative bills on the pipeline issue). A packed house at the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals hearing on January 4 caused the tabling of a decision on a 34 acre Dominion pipeline construction yard on route 42 near Churchville that would fatally impact an innovative and productive, well-established sustainable family farm. They are likely to make a decision at the February 1, 1:30pm meeting in Verona. A petition against the zoning approval generated over 30,000 signatures within a couple of weeks.
Josh feels these pipelines may still be defeated, and that there are still many legal hurdles to their successful operation, regardless of whether they are constructed or not. Letters can still be written, and he urges all who will write to do so, and to keep the issue local. (More things you can do below.)
– Anne Nielsen, for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, January 2018
Most months, the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee invites a community member or group to present to the CAAV steering committee about projects with which they are involved. We are grateful to be working with so many other groups and individuals passionate about creating a more resilient, healthy and just world.
From Josh: a few notes on some simple actions anyone can take to support pipeline fighters in our region.
Our next RAPTORS meeting will be Wednesday, January 31st at 6:45PM, Lucy Simms Center music room. For anyone who’d like to join our email list, send a message to RaptorsOfTheValley [at] gmail.com
The next day, Thursday, February 1st, Augusta County will be holding their Board of Zoning Appeals meeting and presumably will be deciding on the Blosser issue. Meeting’s at the Augusta County Government complex in Verona, 1:30PM. Here’s the FB event link and Petition to stop the rezoning of a 34 acre lot in Churchill, VA for use as ACP’s construction staging yard.
In the case of Mountain Valley Pipeline, I believe the comment period is still open for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, which holds a permit that MVP must obtain concerning state-owned subaqueous bottomlands in Virginia. Their public hearing is January 23rd, 9:30AM at the VMRC in Newport News. I’ll be attending. More info on commenting here. Also, FB event link here. You might notice that this hearing will be extremely difficult to attend for anyone in Western VA – the VMRC has apparently not taken much from our petition to hold hearings along the route, closer to those affected. I’ll be driving down early that morning.
You may also have seen that Tim Kaine recently made a statement asking for rehearings from FERC on ACP and MVP. You can sign the Sierra petition to legislators supporting the statement here. Calling legislators here to follow up and amplify the cause would be great.
Also, you can Vote for Bold Alliance to receive charitable donations from CREDO this month – Bold Alliance is an allegiance group of pipeline fighters combating KXL, MVP, ACP, and a number of other pipelines. Their organization has spread from Nebraska to Appalachia, from Iowa to Oklahoma, and now to Louisiana in their fight against Bayou Bridge. Bold Appalachia is the wing fighting MVP & ACP primarily.