Pipeline Construction Harm to Farms, Including Organic

I’ve blogged before about how pipelines can destroy farmland, through subsoil compaction, loss of top soil, and drainage impacts, leading to lower crop yields. Now there is even more evidence from Virginia and West Virginia.

These damages can take generations to restore, if ever. Farmers know their land best, yet powerful pipeline companies as well as government agencies have ignored well-reasoned pleas from farmers to change pipeline routes to protect their most valuable farmland.

Organic farms have a particular vulnerability.

In West Virginia, the owners of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have allowed a company to drop pellets from helicopters onto farms, something that is supposed to help prevent soil erosion. In the case of the Blackberry Springs Farm, it's reported that they were dropped on land more than a quarter-mile from the pipeline for no reason and with no notice. They were dropped on the farmers, including children, even though they are as hard as rocks, causing injuries. They were dropped more than once, even though the company claimed it would stop, ultimately covering most of the farmland. It's been reported that the pellets contain acrylamide, a toxic chemical that may cause cancer, and the farm owners say it has prevented the farm from maintaining the organic certification the owners worked hard to achieve, costing them financially.

The companies responsible for the pellets have never sent anyone to pick them up and clean up the mess they made. In addition, it’s reported that these pellets were dropped in streams. The company that makes the pellets claims that they do not contain acrylamide, but rather polyacrylamide.

In Virginia, the Four Corners Farm has given up its efforts to gain organic certification. According to the owners, the pipeline’s use of chemical coatings and fertilizers made that impossible. I've blogged about the risks of pipeline coatings in the past. In addition, pipeline construction destroyed the farm’s best pasture. A recent article outlines additional harms to local farms, including erosion, with photos that document the damage.

Farmers are also suffering from significant losses of their property due to the process of eminent domain, where private companies are allowed to take property from a private landowner. This is only supposed to happen when there is an important “public use,” and landowners receive payment for their land. But there is no evidence that the Mountain Valley Pipeline is necessary and there is no known public benefit (to the contrary, the pipeline can lead to dirtier and more expensive energy for consumers).

To add insult to injury, farmers may not receive payment until years after they have suffered damages, and the ultimate payment may not reflect the true cost of their losses. That’s why hundreds of property owners are suing pipelines across the country. It’s a travesty that small farmers have to sue some of the biggest corporations in the world to try to get a small payment years after their farms have been destroyed. Our pipeline process is archaic, destructive to consumers, farms, communities, the environment, and the climate. It must be changed.

About the Authors

Amy Mall

Senior Advocate, Dirty Energy, Lands Division, Nature Program

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