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"Tree Sitters" Stall MVP Pipeline

"Tree sitters" protesting the Mountain Valley Pipeline have occupied trees on the pipeline path for more than a month. (Appalachians Against Pipelines)
"Tree sitters" protesting the Mountain Valley Pipeline have occupied trees on the pipeline path for more than a month. (Appalachians Against Pipelines)
April 2, 2018

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — “Tree sitters" are stalling construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Members of the group Appalachians Against Pipelines are physically occupying two trees and a vertical pole erected in the middle of the only access road on Peter's Mountain, which straddles the Virginia-West Virginia border.

The pipeline partnership, led by gas company EQT, has obtained the necessary permits for the Mountain Valley project. But rules protecting a rare bat species forbid cutting trees there between April 1 and November.

Protester Alex - who didn't share his last name - spoke by cell phone from the tree he's occupied for more than a month.

"This is a victory, and the fact that we've been able to last this long and impede the construction is a testimony to the power that people have,” Alex said. “But if we were to get down tonight, I expect that they would try to clear tomorrow or the next day."

Until this weekend, the MVP developers maintained they would meet a March 31 deadline to cut down the trees. And Alex acknowledged it may be impossible for tree sitters to permanently prevent the $3.7 billion project.

The 300-mile pipeline would carry billions of cubic feet of natural gas from Wetzel County, W.Va., to Pittsylvania County, Va. So far, two of the protesters have been arrested on minor charges.

Pipeline opponents say government agencies and the courts have so far failed to meet their responsibilities to protect landowners and the environment. And Alex said the public doesn’t have to accept the MVP.

"Now that the permitting process has ended and has allowed for the pipeline to be constructed, we don't have to agree that it is permissible,” he said. “There are still a million ways to interrupt the inevitability. We can decide that together."

The company argues the pipeline is necessary to open up a bottleneck keeping them from shipping natural gas from the Marcellus fields to eastern markets. The MVP is one of several, similar projects.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV