Southwest Virginia communities join 'Hands Across our Land' to fight pipeline

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FRANKLIN COUNTY (WSLS 10) - Groups of people opposed to natural gas pipelines joined hands Tuesday in a coordinated event called Hands Across our Land.

It took place in communities in a number of states, including Virginia. Activists in Franklin, Floyd, Montgomery and Giles Counties came together in a show of support with events Tuesday morning and evening.

"We realize that there's a lot of people in the same situation that we are," said Tina Badger, Preserve Montgomery County. "That's the significance. It's a show of solidarity."

Their message was clear as men and women held hands and signs, singing in opposition to the pipelines.

Mike Carter, who owns a small family business in Rocky Mount, moved to the area in 1985.

"It's going to cause major danger to the town of Rocky Mount water system if there was to be an accident there," he said. "You could cut off water to Franklin County High School, Franklin County Middle School, Elementary schools and all the 5000 people that live in the town of Rocky Mount."

Mother Freeda Cathcart who started Mothers Against Pipelines, joined activists in Floyd.

"We do care because wherever they move it, it's still going to be affecting our entire economy and our entire well-being."

Hands Across our Land is a nationwide effort, spread mainly through social media to grassroots groups in nine states- Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, New York and Oregon.

"They want to straddle the ridge of the mountain and then they're going to cut a 200 foot wide swath all across Franklin County," Carter said of the proposal for the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Franklin County. "It will be devastating to the area," threatening the water supply, exporting natural gas out of the area and dropping property values, he said.

"We have the largest number of affected property owners of any county on the 300 plus mile route. If they build this pipeline everyone of those pieces of property is going to drop in value, 20 to 50 %." It's money, Carter says, the county will lose in tax revenues and money in the form of jobs he says will go to skilled workers brought in from out of state.

Dominion recently started running ads in support of its proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline which would run through Nelson county. One of three ads airing in Southwest Virginian shows a couple, the man claiming he was "born and raised in Nelson County" and saying he thinks "it's a good thing for our area. It will bring revenue to the county and help keep our country safe," he continued.

Carter argues local communities won't reap that benefit.

"A 42-inch pipeline that's directly billed for the export of natural gas is not going to benefit Franklin County in one way. They say it's going to create jobs," he said. "Lots of areas that have natural gas or losing jobs."

Opponents say expensive advertising won't stop their grassroots effort.

"The advertising is just trying to fool people into thinking there something good for us and we know full well that there's nothing good for us so the truth will shine through," Cathcart said.