You Can Stand Us Up at the Gates of Hell, But We Won’t Back Down: An Open Letter to Virginia DEQ Director David Paylor

Dear David Paylor:

During a conference call with you on Friday, July 20 regarding the DEQ’s Notice of Violation (NOV) to the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) I could not stop thinking about the turtles. While you spoke to people whose drinking water is at stake, while you evaded questions from people supporting those people, while you continued to be politely but arrogantly dismissive, I kept picturing those turtles. When you told me there was no mechanism in place to stop work while the DEQ reviewed over 13,000 citizen concerns I was still thinking about the turtles.

If I thought you would actually take any of this into account, I might mention more details about the obvious and irreparable damage being done to the headwaters in my region while your agency delays and delays and delays the review of comments while continuing to allow construction to commence. Here’s the thing: I no longer think that you’re listening to anything but the inside of your own head as you decide which line you could deliver that might placate us the most, throw us off track or deny your accountability.

Snapping turtles are not endangered. The turtles that local residents have seen crossing 221 right next to the Blue Ridge Parkway are probably mostly snapping turtles. Perhaps a red eared slider or a painted turtle. But what if some of them could be the critically endangered bog turtle? They are among the “species of greatest conservation need” in the Roanoke area. “The Bog Turtle is a threatened species inhabiting the high elevation wetlands of Bent Mountain in Floyd, Roanoke and Franklin Counties. It will be directly impacted during construction and will continue to be impacted by the altered hydrology of the wetlands after construction.

I did not talk about the turtles on the call, given that it was intended to address the NOV. They have been talked about a lot, though, by residents of Bent Mountain over the last few weeks. Evidently the part of 221 that the MVP is crossing has been well known as an area where turtles cross the road, especially during and shortly after mating season when they lay eggs. The last person I heard mention them was a man in a pick up truck who was shouting something through his window as I hung a banner on the side of 221 with the DEQ’s phone number on it, accompanied by the hashtag #ChallengeCorruption. At first I could not hear what he was saying, but then he rolled down his window and shook his fist as he hollered: “That’s where the turtles lived!” He gestured towards the area where bulldozers and out of state workers have reduced a wetland to a boggy field with a 42 inch pipe planted in it. The turtles are long gone.

You are in a position of power in the agency you direct, capable of issuing orders and making decisions that affect many, many lives. And though I do my very best to treat everyone I encounter as a human being and someone capable of behaving in a humane fashion, my observations of you over the past four years have not encouraged that impression. As far as I am concerned, your job, which has to do with environmental quality, should also have to do with the people’s voices. You have not demonstrated the ability to answer to anyone but corporate invaders, money and political ambition. Over and over, I have seen you behave like you did on that phone call, similarly dismissive of the citizens you are supposed to serve.   

There are a lot of other things I could talk about in regards to pipeline construction in SWVA: Bottom Creek, which is dear to my heart; the ancient orchards butchered in acres, the steepness of the slopes and the depths of the sediment already tainting people’s well and spring water. But there’s something about imagining that elderly farmer in the pick-up truck stopping on the side of the road to help a turtle reach the other side that I cannot get out of my head. Perhaps it is because it demonstrates compassion so vividly, a trait that you do not seem to have. Perhaps it is because I know that many critically endangered Indiana Bats already lost their habitats through tree cutting during their mating season. Perhaps it is because the Roanoke Logperch may not recover from the damage already done to the Roanoke River. Perhaps it is because I stopped on the side of the road in late May to help a mama snapper cross the road, her back covered in mud from where she had just laid eggs. By the time those eggs hatch, often in August (if they have not already been dug up and decimated), where will they go?

This is one of the things that haunts me when I try to sleep at night.

I hope it now haunts you too.

I hope it haunts you enough that you’ll consider doing the right thing and stopping construction on the MVP, working with your citizen’s State Water Control Board and the citizens of Virginia whom you are supposed to serve to protect their water, their rights and their environmental quality of life. The depth of corruption you continue to contribute is reprehensible and we will continue to challenge it. Our communities are stronger than the corporations you seem to prefer. We will not back down.


Mara Eve Robbins


Climate solidarity


On April 29, 2017, Preserve Floyd held a solidarity demonstration with the People’s Climate March in Washington, DC. Though it was planned as a sister march with those marching in DC, Floyd County also demonstrated strong support for those in the region still facing the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and the affected landowners violated by survey activity which is unrelenting despite their protests.

Mary Beth Coffey, a landowner from Bent Mountain whose home and property is threatened by the proposed MVP, brought her easement paperwork with her to the demonstration. Surrounded by Floyd County allies who held signs saying: “No Pipeline, No Trespassing, No Surveying,” she lit it on fire as everyone cheered.

This action was inspired by Richard Averitt, from Nelson County, VA who is fighting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). He is challenging

Continue reading Climate solidarity


No to the Pipeline(s): The Documentary

Just a note to make you aware that the ongoing story of Appalachian resistance to natural gas pipelines has been serially documented and is available for viewing at a new page on this site–under Why NO Pipelines.

Any new chapters (and we all hope there will not be many more before the energy companies relent) can be viewed by clicking this blue button on the Preserve Floyd webpage.

And you should check out the citizen engagement at a recent FERC meeting:

SAVE OUR WATER! No Eminent Domain for Personal Gain! Watch the videos from right here in Virginia.



League Expands Staff Fighting Pipelines in Southwest Virginia

Today the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League announced the hiring of two community organizers in southwest Virginia dedicated to fighting pipelines and the pollution they bring.  Mara Robbins of Floyd and Getra Hanes Selph of Bent Mountain are activists who have organized several of the preserve groups along the Mountain Valley Pipeline route.  They started work today.

Lou Zeller, the League’s Executive Director, said, “We are pleased to hire two local leaders who have demonstrated real skill in organizing their communities.”  He continued, “We envision a long-term campaign to stop the sacrifice of southwest Virginia to the fossil fuel industry.”

Mara Robbins, a graduate of Hollins University and founder the first “Preserve” group in Virginia, Preserve Floyd, said, “It is an honor to work with the wonderful staff at Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League.  Whether the issue is pipelines, fracking, coal ash or a nuclear waste dump, I am committed to this work. It is the work I was born to do.” Preserve Floyd has been a chapter of the League since October.

Getra Hanes Selph, reflecting on her new position, said, “This is the issue that has propelled me to take action by organizing a grassroots community movement to “Stop the Pipelines” in Virginia.”  Preserve Bent Mountain became a League chapter in November.  She earned her B.S at Radford University.

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League was founded in 1984 by people in Virginia and North Carolina concerned about a national nuclear waste dump in the southern Appalachian Mountains.  The public education campaign launched by the League helped to create regional resistance.  The US Department of Energy abandoned the plan in 1988.


Nature Not Our Golden Egg if We Kill the Goose

Do you think that the chief purpose of natural places and communities of the planet is for human transformation into more and more human stuff forever? Or do forests or coral reefs or estuaries have rights to legal protection (as much as now afforded to corporations)?

Communities not unlike Floyd County’s population are impacted today by coal ash storage ponds that will contaminate their aquifers; they live downstream from mountaintop coal mining; they suffer genetic deformities in their newborns because of toxic industrial waste abandoned by the industries that created them.

Citizens of Floyd County have recently faced the real threat of massive fracking-gas pipelines that will potentially be putting our neighboring counties and their citizens and properties at risk.

Do communities in Giles, Franklin, Floyd and Montgomery Counties have rights to prevent degradation of their water, soil, air and way of life — even if corporation-states blow off those human needs and rights as impediments to their profit?

We are at last acknowledging that, if our local ecosystems become unhealthy, the humans and non-human creatures that depend on those living systems will also become unwell.

If we know these kinds of abuses of people and planet are wrong, what is a community on the ground in the path of known or anticipated natural-system damage to do in the face of what seems to be an indifferent, omnipotent, un-stoppable corporatocracy?

These are not academic questions and thankfully, the solutions are not theoretical but real and available. Preserve Floyd is in the process of learning how to use these solutions for the common good in Floyd County and southwest Virginia in similar ways that locally-drafted ordinances have been used in 110 municipalities across the country.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund will provide guidance and assistance as we craft a draft ordinance in support of ongoing health and justice for those in-common natural resources within our shared habitat of Floyd County–water, soil, forests and more.

Come learn more this Sunday , from 3 to 5 p.m., at the public meeting of Preserve Floyd: Citizens Preserving Floyd County. Location is the Junebug Center across from the Jacksonville Center on Route 8 just south of the town of Floyd towards the BR Parkway.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund : Rights of Nature: Background


Community Meeting: Sunday, Dec. 14th at the June Bug Center

Please join us for a gathering that is sure to be filled with creative, unexpected twists and turns and a rousing group of active citizens.

Preserve Floyd: Citizens Preserving Floyd County will host a community meeting at the June Bug Center on Sunday, December 14 from 3-5 PM.

Please join us to explore how we can preserve, protect and enhance the environment of Floyd County, how we can proactively work together to address any future threats that might come our way, and how we can support our friends and neighbors in surrounding counties in their work to keep the dangerous and unwelcome Mountain Valley Pipeline out of their communities.

Citizens Preserving Floyd County is a grassroots community endeavor that intends to listen, respond to and participate with the citizens of Floyd. We want to hear your ideas for the future. We want your voices in the mix and your presence at the table. We’d love your help if you have volunteer time you’d like to offer!

We intend to foster discussion about how we can continue to PRESERVE FLOYD and also help to Preserve Roanoke County, Preserve the NRV, Preserve Franklin, Preserve Giles, Preserve Pittsylvania, Preserve Montgomery, Preserve Virginia and West Virginia and safeguard our resources as a global community.



Sunday, December 14 from 3-5 PM at The June Bug Center. 

We hope very much to see you there.

You can RSVP to the event and find more information HERE.


Stop the Frackin’ Pipeline concert on Nov 15 featuring Butch Robins

Join Preserve Floyd for a wonderful concert featuring master banjo player Butch Robins on November 15 at The Floyd Country Store.

As one of the “Masters of The 5-String Banjo”, Butch has been playing and composing for over 50 years and shows no signs of slowing down!

“Introverted master of an extroverted instrument”, Butch Robins, has established himself as an instrumental innovator and explorer. His banjo playing techniques have enabled him to share the sound of that instrument, and enhance the music of an extremely diverse range of musical stylists and definers of genre.

Butch is a complicated man – an artist, a musician, a thinker and a storyteller. He’s a banjo player with few peers, and a chronicler of the music of Bill Monroe, the Father of Blue Grass Music.

This will be a fantastic event with incredible music, community participation and your ticket purchases will be going to a great cause–STOPPING THE FRACKIN’ PIPELINE! Join us, bring your friends and neighbors and get ready for a really good time.

butch robins concert



Understanding Your Legal Rights – Mountain Valley Pipeline

Important upcoming event!

Understanding Your Legal Rights – Mountain Valley Pipeline

October 28 @ 7:00 pm

Joe Lovett (Executive Director of Appalachian Mountain Advocates), Isaac Howell (a FERC expert in Roanoke), and Elise Keaton (director of Keeper of the Mountains Foundation in WV) will be here to provide information specifically on the Mountain Valley Pipeline as to how we can proceed and helping us understand our legal rights (although they cannot solicit legal clients or recommend specific legal counsel). They can provide us information on how to proceed with FERC as well as other government agencies involved in regulating natural gas distribution. They will also be able to assist us in organizing locally and with other groups they are helping in Virginia and West Virginia. While their presentation is free, donations to fund their work as a non-profit are appreciated.