Appalachian Trail Conservancy Refuses to Make Public $19.5 Million Pipeline Agreement

For six years, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) fought the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s proposal to dig under the Appalachian Trail for its 303-mile natural gas pipeline.

Sandra Marra
Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Then last year, the ATC announced that it was taking up to $19.5 million from Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Predictably, the ATC’s active opposition to the pipeline ceased.

This did not sit well with the Appalachian Trail community, including many active ATC members who quit the group in protest.

Now, those members and others are calling on the ATC to release the secret agreement with Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Many ATC members like Dr. Dana Olson, who lives right next to the trail in Peterstown, West Virginia, were not happy with the ATC agreement with Mountain Valley Pipeline.

“I feel totally betrayed by this action,” Dr. Olson wrote. “Please find a way to rescind this agreement. I hate to see the ATC become a subsidiary of MVP. Pipelines along the trail? How about Disney characters on the trail?  Overall bad news from what should be a source of hope and courage in a time of darkness. I am a disgruntled ATC member.”

We reached ATC CEO Sandra Marra on the phone, but she would not answer any questions regarding the agreement. 

We sent Marra our questions in writing.

How much of the $19.5 million has the ATC received already?

Is there any part of the $19.5 million that is contingent on the pipeline being completed?

Why isn’t the ATC joining other groups in opposition to the pipeline?

Why don’t you make the agreement public?

We get an email from the ATC’s Jordan Bowman.

“The ATC has no comment at this time,” Bowman writes.

Hundreds of Appalachian Trail defenders have signed onto a petition, now closed, calling on the ATC to make public the agreement.

“This $19.5 million agreement, which was formed without the knowledge of ATC members, was a shock after the ATC’s six years of opposition to the MVP and the resulting destruction to the viewsheds and the Appalachian National Historic Trail in Southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia,” the petitioners wrote.

“Since the announcement of this secretly-formed agreement, ATC leadership has refused to release the contents of the agreement for review by ATC members and the general public. Please sign and share this petition by December 15, 2020, urging the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to make the entire text of this unprecedented agreement available to every ATC member and to the public. The Trail does not belong to the ATC or any other group or organization, and it is not for sale.”

One of those signing the petition is ATC member Maury Johnson, who lives ten miles from the trail.

The pipeline cuts through his farm in Monroe County, West Virginia.

Like Dr. Olson, Johnson feels betrayed by the ATC and wants to see a copy of the agreement between ATC and Mountain Valley Pipeline.

And he’s been making his opinion known on ATC social media sites.

For example, when earlier this week, the ATC posted on Facebook a link to the ATC’s history, Johnson responded by posting this comment: 

“The latest chapter in the ATC History will read: In 2015 a pipeline company came calling. They wanted to cross the Trail in a way that would impact the views for nearly 100 miles. We (ATC) said No. We fought and fought and fought for years. We were joined by people from the two Virginias and across the nation. Then in Late 2020, we decided to take a huge amount of cash from this terrible pipeline company. In the process we (the ATC) decided that those fighting with us were not nearly as valuable as those filthy rich pipeline guys. So we threw our friends under the bus and laughed all the way to the bank.  Release the Secret Agreement with MVP.”

The ATC quickly took down Johnson’s post.

The defeat of the 600-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline last year gave hope to those battling the Mountain Valley Pipeline that they too will be victorious – despite the pipeline company’s $19.5 million donation to the ATC.

The pipeline is facing a slew of legal challenges.

And last month, the pipeline hit another roadblock when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) deadlocked 2-2, effectively denying the company’s request to bore under streams and wetlands along the pipeline’s first 77 miles in West Virginia.

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