by April Pierson-Keating
Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance is a multi-county, grassroots group of community members in counties affected by the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Our mission is to educate the public about the dangers of fracking and gas infrastructure buildout. We envision a world in which no one is marginalized, harmed, or ignored for the sake of profit. We promote a just transition away from fossil fuels and we believe that a sustainable economy is within reach. We only need the political will to make it happen.
Our members draw from Upshur, Lewis, Randolph, Pocahontas, Barbour, Braxton, and Harrison counties. We met in February of 2014 at LaPaix Herb Farm (founded by a friend of mine and which is now up for sale; she moved away because the gas companies were going to drill under her farm) during National Frackdown Day and, of course, water was on our minds. This meeting was held only a month after a spill of MCHM, a coal-cleaning compound, contaminated the water for over 300,000 West Virginians.
Over the years, MLPA has hosted or participated in pipeline resistance, organizer trainings, regular water monitoring, educational community meetings, regular visits with our city and county officials, and voter registration drives. We also network with other groups with similar visions of social justice. Future plans include fighting the gas hub, a fracking and health symposium, inter-faith water roundtables, a website or newsletter to highlight safety issues, looking into establishing a water protection commission, creating and training working groups to work on different projects, and some serious fund-raising.
WV Environmental Council’s services are invaluable to groups like MLPA. They have a set of skilled lobbyists who know their way around the capitol – the building, the process, the representatives – and who can argue for our issues when we can’t be there to do it. Charleston can be a long way to drive to do in-person lobbying. WVEC, and member organizations WV Citizen Action Group, OVEC, and WVRivers have always been good about keeping the general public informed about what’s going on at the capitol – and sometimes we know that’s not too savory – keeping us apprised of what is going on behind the walls of our legislature.
WVEC is aligned with some of the most powerful groups in the state: West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, WV Rivers, West Virginia Surface Owners’ Rights Association, and Sierra Club, but it also provides a way for smaller, local groups and organizations to be more effective. On the WVEC “About” page you can see their accomplishments along with bad bills they’ve been able to stop. WVEC is a force to be reckoned with. They are watching out for us, and dedicated to putting the power where it belongs – in the hands of the People.
There is going to be a big push for more citizen lobbying this term. MLPA plans to be involved, and we encourage everyone reading this to attend a training (if you haven’t already) on advocacy/lobbying from one of many groups offering them, and try to make it to Charleston at least once a month. Tuesdays are Citizen Lobbying Day. WVEC will buy your lunch and there may be some funding to cover the cost of travel. A list of dates and locations of these trainings is put out by American Friends Service Committee and WVFREE. The first one is coming up in Morgantown on January 18. There are also trainings Jan 23rd in Lewisburg, Feb. 1st at Bethany College and Feb. 5th in Parkersburg. Contact WVEC President Keena Mullins firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
And check out MLPA at www.mountainlakespreservation.org
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