Nelson County. Va--On Tuesday, August 18, the culmination of what was conceived last January during a conversation between Free Nelson Co-Chair Sharon Ponton and Nelson activist Matt Dwyer will occur when communities in eight states -- WV, VA, MD, OH, OR, PA, TX, and NC -- take part in "Hands Across Our Land." HAOL is a solidarity action meant to illustrate to government officials and the energy industry that grassroots activists stand together, united in their efforts to protect their land and communities from the onslaught of new fracked gas infrastructure.Energy companies erroneously tout fracked natural gas as clean, cheap energy and expect rural communities across America to be sacrificed, not for the public good, but for shareholder profit. Free Nelson founder, the Reverend Marion Kanour wonders, "What could our world become if corporations were guided by environmental and social responsibilty rather than greed?" Kanour, an Episcopal priest, believes we each have a sacred obligation to be good stewards of the earth.
Marilyn Shifflett, Free Nelson Co-chair, visited the fracking fields in West Virginia and was profoundly affected by what she saw. "It was hard to imagine greater impact than over 100 years of coal mining and then mountain top coal removal," Shifflett explains, "but West Virginians are now being assaulted by the natural gas industry spanning larger residential areas, at a pace hard to imagine until seen, leaving an irreparable path of destruction in its wake. Hardly a stream or human has not been touched. Our visit was an eye-opener and heart opener."
Ponton, HAOL's project coordinator, and Blue Ridge Environmental Defemse League Virginia Organizer, has spent the last two months planning the campaign and recruiting grassroots groups to hold actions in their local communities. She states, "The energy companies have a divide and conquer strategy. They bully, intimidate and file lawsuits against landowners who refuse to allow access to their properties. On August 18, we will stand as one, community by community, symbolically, building a human chain to stop them, illustrating our passion to protect our land, our families, and our planet."HAOL events will be held in over 30 communities in the eight participating states. Folks can also participate virtually. All one needs do is gather a group of friends and family, wear your no pipeline or no fracking gear, or make a sign supporting our cause. Then take a photo standing side-by-side, holding hands and upload it to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using the hashtag, #HandsAcrossOurLand.
Free Nelson is an anti-pipeline group which has been fighting the proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline. Free Nelson appreciates the support and promotion given for HAOL by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Beyond Extreme Energy, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club.