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* * Welcome to Peter Montgomery’s nightmare

You see the destruction before you even arrive at Peter Montgomery’s pleasant ranch home on Mount Tabor Road. There’s a linear swath of devastation painted on the slope of Brush Mountain to the north. At the famous hairpin turn, the guardrail is bent and broken. And there is mud all over the road. Peter lives at ground zero in pipeline hell, adjacent to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the massive project that has overwhelmed so many of our neighbors.

I met Peter in his detached workshop where he makes an entrepreneurial living as a custom woodworker. He was refinishing a solid chestnut door from an historic 1827 local church, while a steady industrial cacophony wafted through the air.

“It has been the shock of the century,” he said. “Who would have ever dreamed in this pristine place they would bring this atrocity?

“I’ve been here for 30+ years. I’m five miles from downtown Blacksburg. Across (Mt. Tabor Road) is all national forest. It’s been okay out here.”

He thought it would miss him, but it landed 100 yards away.

“Two neighbors already moved due to proximity of the pipeline. It’s affecting another one and me the most. It’s not actually on my property, so I get no compensation whatsoever. There’s constant heavy equipment traffic on a curvy country road. There’s a flagger at the end of my driveway, and I never know when I’ll face delays leaving or coming home. The other day, I had to wait 30 minutes to enter my driveway. My car is filthy with the mud on the road. There’s noise from 7 in the morning until 7 at night, and they want to go from 5 until 10. It may last for the next six months. I’m in the bull’s-eye, but my neighbors are all affected. It couldn’t be any worse.”

The primary contractor, Wisconsin based Precision Pipeline, has been slapped with multiple safety and environmental violations and paid tens of thousands of dollars in penalties.

 “The company is incompetent,” claimed Montgomery. “They called me to arrange a ‘pre-blast inspection’ of my home and workshop. By law, they’re supposed to give me five days notice; they gave me one. They’re digging a 10 by 10 foot trench, through solid rock, so they dynamite to loosen it.

My dogs are traumatized by the noise and blasting. I’m trying to go on vacation, but I can’t leave them now. I’ve not been myself. My blood sugar is up. I’m deeply stressed. I’m not sleeping well. My work has suffered. I need to get away, but if I’m worried about them blowing the place up, I can’t leave.”

Peter has gotten lots of help and support from local law enforcement, including county deputies who have stepped up their presence to address his concerns. But of course, you and I are paying those people.

“The sad thing is that the government allowed this to happen in the first place. A friend drives a school bus on this road and he got run off the road by one of these thugs in their trucks. Every vehicle I’ve seen is out of state.”

Here’s what makes Peter and so many local people upset. He gets no compensation because they didn’t actually take his land. The county and state get no compensation. There are no taps where we could use the natural gas it will carry. Succinctly, the corporation has privatized the profits and socialized the risks. If this pipeline were to explode near him – and this is by no means a distant possibility, given that a smaller, 36” pipe, only installed six months ago in West Virginia did exactly that early this month – he’d be instantly annihilated, along with his entire property. This pipe, by volume, is 70% larger.

His drinking water comes from a well. “The chemicals they use might contaminate my well and the blasting might ruin the capacity. If there is a problem, what then? I don’t know.

“The most stressful aspect is not knowing what will happen next. The unpredictability.”

I took a break and walked up the road past the flaggers to see for myself. On the north side, was a 100-foot wide path of mud, with various construction vehicles. On the south was a massive drill with an upright derrick, flying at the top was not an American flag but a flag that said, “TRUMP, 2020, KEEP AMERICA GREAT.”

When I returned to say goodbye, Peter said, “At 68, I need to be seriously concerned about my stress. Stress can take you down. People need to come here and see it. We thought we lived in a democracy. My psychic counselor said, ‘Your soul had no way to know something like this would ever come, much less how to deal with it.’”


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