Rocky Mount farmer calls on politicians over pipeline issues

Published: Sep. 21, 2017 at 6:42 PM EDT
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Residents are waiting for a decision on the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

In the meantime, one pipeline opponent invited local candidates to tour her farm - and asked them to join her in the fight against the pipeline.

At Four Corners Farm in Franklin County, farming is a family business. And Thursday the Reilly family invited a group of candidates onto their property while they were joined by some unwelcome guests - all in the lead up to the decision on the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

On the farm Thursday were a group of archaeological surveyors.

These surveyors have been on the Reillys’ property before searching for archaeological artifacts.

It's part of the process in surveying for the Mountain Valley Pipeline project.

"'Yeah, uh it's completely changed our life as a family," said Carolyn Reilly.

Reilly’s farm raises poultry for meat and egg consumption. They also raise pigs. They’re used to having their pastures full but not with surveyors working to determine if the soil on their property would be suitable for a pipeline. Reilly and her family and neighbors have spent years now fighting it.

"I won’t lie like there are times when I cry and I am fed up and I feel like we don't know what's gonna happen," she said.

Thursday she invited local candidates to her farm to see firsthand what she sees. Leslie Cockburn was one of them. She’s a democrat running for the 5th district in Congress.

She and others here today agree, the pipeline has a large part in this year's election.

"I suppose I was surprised by the level of anger and activism over it and it's very substantial," Cockburn said.

Flo Ketner (D) running for the House of Delegates 7th district agrees.

"It's been a part of my platform since day one,” she said, noting her stand on the pipeline has been on all of her campaign literature. “I grew up in Floyd and if you drive through or walk through Flyod there are no pipeline signs, bumper stickers, people just talking about it."

Peter Velosin, (D), running for Congress in the 6th District says the pipeline issue and job growth go hand-in-hand.

"We're focused on eco-tourism,” he said. “And we now have these brewery jobs and issues like the pipeline directly affect the jobs that we have in our area."

All three said they think the pipeline is a step backward as far as energy production. Both Cockburn and Volosin said that if elected, and if the pipeline is approved, they would work to restructure the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has the ultimate say on the pipeline at this point.

FERC is set to make a decision soon. Until then, Reilly fights, pleased that these candidates are on her side.

"It's stressful and it's distressful. but I choose to embrace hope and keep walking forward and persevere," she said.

Sam Rasoul was also on hand for part of the day.

District 7 Delegate Nick Rush said Thursday he supports further development of our energy infrastructure, but says he has serious concerns about the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and has yet to see any economic benefit that would justify the risk.

We also asked the campaigns of 5th District Congressman Tom Garrett, and 6th District Congressman Bob Goodlatte for their perspective on the pipeline, and we'll post their comments when we hear from them.