Bold Defiance in the Face of Climate Betrayal: The Unyielding Fight Against the Mountain Valley Pipeline

Picture the White House veiled in a thick haze, with hundreds of climate warriors — including yours truly — braving the smoke from Canadian wildfires to make a stand on President Joe Biden’s doorstep. Their weapons of choice? Banners and placards, all aimed at calling out the climate hypocrisy surrounding West Virginia’s Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).

On a memorable day in early June, a diverse group of protesters convened, throwing caution to the wind and potentially risking arrest, all to shine a light on what many consider to be a significant environmental faux pas by the Biden administration. Among the many displays, one blue banner stood out, starkly proclaiming: “Biden’s Climate Embarrassment.” It was impossible to miss the intentional play on Biden-Harris’s campaign emblem.

The protest’s eerie backdrop was North America’s latest climate catastrophe – a series of wildfires raging through Canada. These infernos, stoked by the global climate emergency, rendered the northeastern US’s air quality “Code Purple” – a stage even worse than “Code Red.”

Just a week prior, the anti-MVP movement suffered a staggering blow when Congress hustled the MVP — a notorious contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and a potential source of dangerous methane leaks — into a debt ceiling bill. The pipeline’s completion would be nothing short of a climate nightmare, potentially racking up emissions equivalent to 19 million passenger vehicles or 23 coal plants, and accounting for a shocking 1 percent of total US energy sector emissions.

After nearly a decade-long battle, this was a punch in the gut for our movement. But it was also a testament to our strength. Our diverse coalition, spanning across several impacted states, has consistently spotlighted the MVP’s gross water quality violations, the danger its construction poses, and its spiraling budget. We’ve actively thwarted legislative shortcuts, provided solid scientific evidence against the MVP, led to crucial court decisions that protect our planet, and stood our ground against infuriated investors.

Enter West Virginia’s own Sen. Joe Manchin. The coal mogul was in a tight corner, scrambling for the highest power levels to bypass our ever-watchful eyes. Manchin’s history is speckled with attempts to steamroll agency and court pipeline review processes, leading to numerous “dirty deals.” The most recent one was shrouded in insider trading rumors after Manchin’s top aide joined a leading oil and gas lobbying group earlier this year.

Many fingers point to a quid-pro-quo between Biden and Manchin, the President’s support for MVP traded for the Senator’s vote on the Inflation Reduction Act. Despite numerous defeats at the hands of our movement last year, this year, they hit the fossil fuel jackpot: a glowing recommendation letter from the presidential administration to the regulatory agency in charge. One MVP investor, Equitrans, declared that Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm’s support letter was key to its approval.

Despite a decade of pushback and only being halfway complete, the MVP got the green light. The audacity of this move is stunning, not only because the pipeline has zilch to do with the debt ceiling, but it also paves the way for corporations to sway Congress votes through must-pass legislation.

We’re fighting for our very existence. Despite the glaring climate crisis, the fossil fuel industry, as Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren bluntly said, will “overbuild until the end of time.” It’s us, the people, against fossil fuels. And while Biden seems to have sided with the fossil fuels, the people’s resolve is stronger and more organized than ever.

Biden rode into office on promises of addressing the climate crisis. But his actions speak louder than words. From Alaska to the Gulf, to Appalachia, communities are being sacrificed for political convenience. This betrayal has incensed young people who stand to bear the brunt of the climate crisis, and it has mobilized elders ready to risk their safety for climate action.

Our movement will not stand for sacrifice zones. We’re committed to halting the MVP alongside Appalachian frontline communities. The road ahead is steep and dangerous, with barely half of the pipeline completed. We will shield our communities from the company’s reckless actions, which led to one of 2022’s worst climate disasters. We’ll expose these atrocities to the banks and insurers funding the project and persistently call for the pipeline’s cancellation.

More importantly, we demand Biden acknowledge the climate emergency and halt all new fossil fuel projects. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Our planet depends on it.