Get loud and make sure everyone knows that your community is going to fight.
The few pipelines that have been canceled recently were stopped largely because of overwhelming resistance from landowners, first-nation tribes, environmental groups, and American citizens who care about our rights, land, and water. We need to encourage pipeline awareness. It’s important for everyone in your community to know what is happening and for your local, state, and federal politicians to know how you feel. It may seem like nobody is listening, but you have to believe that each and every thing you do is adding up. We call it “death by a thousand cuts.” Every idea about how you can get the story of your fight out there is relevant and matters.
The pipeline companies do not want resistance or bad press. Come together early and let them know that your community does not support their proposed project and why. Other counties along the route will hear you and many will join in and start their own groups putting more pressure on the project.
If you have not decided yet to form a local group, here are a couple of things you can do right away while you consider your options:
PRPC has pre-made yard signs ready to send to you! Email PRPCNetwork@gmail.com to request up to 50 “No Pipeline” signs shipped to you for free. Place the signs along the route and in yards to create awareness about the proposed project in your community. Others can’t join you if they don’t know.
Post signs NOT just along the route, but also along major traffic routes in the area. The purpose of the signs is two-fold:
1) to help the pipeline fighters/landowners feel supported, as it is important for each individual to know that there are other individuals who are standing with them;
2) to increase the profile of the issue among people who may not be aware of it and to keep the issue in the public eye for the years that this is likely to drag on.
You don’t want people to think the fight is “over” or a “done deal,” as this attitude becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Big signs along major routes and on the properties of supportive businesses make for great photo-ops whenever there is press coverage. This is good both for you and for the time-crunched reporters who need an easy backdrop for their story.
The pipeline company has no obligation to notify landowners that their homes will be in the blast zone (the zone of land that is inside of the distance any pipeline explosion would likely burn). There are a lot of these folks along the route, and they often feel powerless. Give them a reason to join you. Let them know that their voices matter and that together you are stronger. There are lots of opportunities for individuals to contribute along the way.
Reach out to trusted groups in your area such as any state non-profit organizations who care about landowner rights or the environment. Contact a local Sierra Club chapter or a non-profit organization with lawyers fighting these kinds of infrastructure projects. Ask how they might be able to help you.
form your group. Decide if you want to join an existing non-profit organization who will be your fiscal sponsor, or whether to start your own non-profit. You will most likely be accepting and raising funds, and how you organize yourselves is important.
broadcast that you are going to resist. Let your community know you exist and why.
set up a web presence and social media. Use Facebook, Instagram, and a website.
find your allies. Identify local, state, and federal politicians who will assist you and connect with non-profits in your area who are passionate about the community and any of the impacts and issues resulting from the pipeline.
stay in the news. Create events to keep your story in the media. Write letters to the editor. See Guide to Writing a LTE on this website
Pros: In the beginning you may want to simply work with others who are interested in working on the same thing you are. The benefits to this is that you can start immediately, it doesn’t cost anything, you don’t need any approvals, and your working group is usually small.
Cons: You may miss other important tasks and have difficulty in getting contributions. It may also limit your ability to grow larger and broader.
Pros: You can begin immediately. You don’t need to know how to run a non-profit; the organization is there to help you. You will have administrative support such as accounting, banking, and more. You will have coverage like insurance for events and legal help. Mostfoundations will only grant money to an organization with 501(c)(3) status, so if you have a fiscal sponsor, this counts. Your donors can make tax-deductible contributions.
Cons: You will have to pay a percentage of your funds (5-10% usually) that you raise for that service. You will also have to comply with the rules of that non-profit. You cannot open a bank account. Procedures are not as flexible, and you may need prior approval. Donors must make contributions to the fiscal sponsor, not your organization.
Check here for a list of some of the non-profits in your state. They are not all listed here but it’s a start! https://fiscalsponsordirectory.org/?page_id=1768
Pros: Easy to apply to get an EIN number to start the process and open a bank account. You can receive contributions directly.
Cons: The process for forming a non-profit is different in each state and can be complicated. Additionally, it takes time and you must get approved. It requires your group to have a name and written purpose, articles of incorporation and bylaws, a board of directors, annual state reports and registration fee, administrative tasks, reports, permits, taxes, accounting, etc. Starting your own non-profit may mean you need board and directors insurance, and your organization may have to pay taxes.
Pros: Donors may make tax-deductible contributions, you will have some income tax exemptions, there will be some protection for the board of directors, and you will have reduced postal rates.
Cons: This process takes longer but might be worth it long term. Form 8976, Notice of Intent to Operate Under Sec 501(c)(3), must be submitted electronically; you must submit annual state and federal tax reports; there is an initial fee of $50; you have limited time to file after state incorporation (27 months); you may need board and officers liability insurance; and you will need administrative volunteers or staff for administrative functions.
The Foundation Group offers excellent advice about what kind of organization to form and can also help with all the necessary state and federal paperwork for a very reasonable price.
Friends of Nelson (FoN) was one of four groups that initially formed in our county to fight the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. Eventually, we settled into two groups who were active during the duration of the fight. There are several options when forming your group. FoN chose to get access to non-profit status by joining a larger group called Virginia Organizing that serves as a fiscal sponsor.
After reading the options, if this feels like a good fit for you, look for a local community group that can take you under its umbrella in a similar fashion. PRPC can also send grants of $2,500 to a non-profit that works with you and your neighbors or your group to assist with outreach to other landowners.
There may be several groups that form for different reasons. Remember that you all have one thing in common and that is to stop the pipeline. Find the people who you can work with and come together around a common issue. For landowners, property rights are an obvious choice. If you are in a compressor station area, noise, air quality, and environmental justice might be the common thread.
Your group can take on several smaller issues if you have enough people involved. Just be careful and don’t spread yourself too thin. This could be a long fight, and fatigue is a real thing when you are under stress. Continue to engage your community. As key players need a break, new ones will come in and relieve them … but only if you are being inclusive and involving people from the start. Beware of letting too much be done by a handful of key people. That is a recipe for burnout, and you risk not having people in the wings who have been groomed to step up.
Connect with the other groups active along your route in nearby counties and help each other when you can. Support each other by showing up to events, re-posting important information, and keeping each other updated on what’s happening.
Here is an example of Friends of Nelson’s local organization and a neighboring organization in the county next to them:
Friends of Nelson’s mission is to protect property rights, property values, rural heritage, and the environment for all the citizens of Nelson County, Virginia:http://friendsofnelson.com/
The mission of the Friends of Buckingham is to preserve the natural resources and cultural heritage of Buckingham County. They fought a compressor station and had environmental justice issues:http://www.friendsofbuckinghamva.org/friends/
Examples of coalitions on the ACP and Mountain Valley Pipeline routes in Virginia:
The Allegheny Blue-Ridge Alliance (ABRA) is a coalition of conservation organizations dedicated to promoting and protecting the environmental integrity of the Allegheny-Blue Ridge region, which encompasses the Central Appalachian Highlands area of Virginia and West Virginia:https://www.abralliance.org/
Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR) is an interstate coalition representing individuals and groups from counties in Virginia and West Virginia dedicated to protecting the water, local ecology, heritage, land rights, human rights of individuals, communities and regions from harms caused by the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure: https://powhr.org/
The Bold Alliance is a network of small but mighty groups protecting land and water on the Keystone XL pipeline:http://boldalliance.org/
Examples of non-profits that helped our fight in Virginia:
Southern Environmental Law Center. By working at the national, regional, state, and local levels, and in all three branches of government, this nonprofit organization is able to do what it takes to get results. SELC strengthens laws, we make government agencies do their job, and, when necessary, we go to court to stop environmental abuses or to set far-reaching precedents: https://www.southernenvironment.org/
The Niskanen Center works to advance an open society by active engagement in the war of ideas, direct engagement in the policymaking process, and through the courts with amicus briefs and pro bono representation. We develop policy proposals, mobilize other groups to support those proposals, promote those ideas to legislative and executive decision-makers, build short- and longer-term coalitions to facilitate joint action, establish strong working relationships with allied legislative- and executive-branch actors, and marshal the most convincing arguments and information in support of our agenda: https://www.niskanencenter.org/
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) works to safeguard the earth, its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends:https://www.nrdc.org/work
Wild Virginia. PROTECTING AND CONNECTING YOUR FAVORITE WILD PLACES: https://wildvirginia.org/
Appalachian Mountain Advocates is a non-profit law and policy center dedicated to fighting for clean water and a clean energy future:http://www.appalmad.org/
Here are a few ideas on how to reach your community, raise money, and generate momentum while having fun.
Each of these can be fundraisers and an excellent way to build trust, spread information, and reach new people—all while creating positive momentum and energy behind your fight:
Facebook is a fast and often reliable way of reaching a great many of your neighbors.
TikTok (short videos) is a great way to reach the youngsters and to “show” what’s new.
Instagram will reach the younger citizens in your area.
A website is a good place to send people once you are established. People can go here to sign up to volunteer, read your mission statement, donate, and find the most current information.
Think about ways in which to reach the folks who fall between these internet cracks. Posters at the local post offices and grocery stores are a simple way. Periodic email newsletters and even phone trees could also work. You can also consider recruiting information buddies to check in on other landowners and update their internet challenged buddy and help along the way.
Circulating online petitions is easy to do on social media. We have used actionnetwork.org, but there are others as well. You can also do letter campaigns through The Action Network, which makes it so an activist can send a letter directly to a targeted official instead of signing a physical petition. At the end of your action, you have options to print out all the signatures or electronically deliver them to your targeted recipient. Printing out and physically delivering a petition to an official can be a good opportunity to get into the news and create awareness around the request.
The Action Network is free and also allows you to set up other actions as well, like events with RSVP pages, fundraising, and more. You can also send emails to activists who have taken action through it and target the email based on things like location, which action an activist took, and more.
Here is the page that shows steps on how to do petitions with links to how to set up other things: https://help.actionnetwork.org/hc/en-us/sections/360002780371-Petitions
Here is an example of an online petition: http://friendsofnelson.com/sign-the-petition-kill-the-acp/
Start to find out who will join you in fighting for your rights. Contact your local board of supervisors or county commissioners, state officials, and federal representatives. Making your voice heard is important, and knowing who has your back is even more important.
Your state and local organizations usually have connections to the media. Ask them to help connect you to them so that the media can report that your community is not happy about this project and plans to resist. Build a list of news reporters and reach out to them when you have big events or fundraisers so they can come out and cover your event. http://friendsofnelson.com/10000-petitions-delivered-to-northam/
Letters to the editor help to inform citizens in your county and other counties and can broaden your support. If the pipeline is not going through your land, many times community members won’t know there is a proposed pipeline until the construction crews show up! https://friendsofnelson.com/take-action/submit-comments-and-write-personal-letters/
Here are a few creative ideas on how to create events to keep you in the news:
Walk the line. A group who hiked a section of the route to create press and awareness. This created attention along the route and in our state culminating in a celebratory party at the end. Landowners hosted campers along the route, which created relationships with activists and brought people together as they listened to stories at night and enjoyed potlucks.
Awareness nationwide about a woman who rode horseback the entire 300-mile route: https://www.theintermountain.com/news/local-news/2018/12/woman-riding-acp-route-on-horseback/
Art events with interactive art: Prayers Not Pipelines
This was an installation that the community participated in creating and was installed along the road where the proposed pipeline was to cross. It stayed up for several weeks bringing awareness to the physical space that the pipeline would cross in public. https://appvoices.org/2015/12/23/prayers-not-pipelines/
Ties that Bind was a project that was created at multiple events by attendees and ended up as a show in a gallery.
Art in the path of the pipeline. There is some belief that art in the path of the pipeline would be yet another challenge for the pipeline companies. This artist created several art installations for landowners; these installations were then placed on the path of the proposed route. Landowners could then bring visitors on their property to view these art installations, showing outsiders the area that was under threat and sharing their concerns about the project overall.
The Defenders. This sculpture moved around to several counties along the proposed route. A dedication ceremony with media coverage happened in each county.
Now that you know your rights, Demain Jackson will guide you with important information you need to know about hiring a lawyer.