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Tree sitters mark two-year anniversary of pipeline protest

Published: Sep. 4, 2020 at 7:22 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a new biological opinion Friday, declaring that the Mountain Valley Pipeline is not likely to jeopardize five endangered species.

The ruling is one of the hurdles MVP must clear to resume construction, and Friday the company said it looks forward to completing the project by early next year.

Meanwhile, a protest that put tree sitters in the path of the pipeline in Montgomery County will be two years old Saturday.

It was September 5, 2018 when opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline first climbed into the trees along Yellow Finch Lane. Two years later, tree sitters are still there blocking the pipeline right-of-way.

Almost hidden within a thick canopy of leaves are three platforms, suspended high above the steep terrain. At least one of them was occupied when we visited Friday morning.

“The resilience of these people has spoken volumes to this community that they’re trying to save their water,” said pipeline opponent Jammie Hale.

The tree sitters have endured efforts to remove them and extreme weather over two winters. And they’ve remained in place, even as court rulings invalidated key federal permits for the project.

“Those same decision-makers are now weighing whether to give Mountain Valley Pipeline another two years to get their act together and we’re basically saying enough is enough,” said Russell Chisholm. “And so we will hold firm until we are heard.”

A spokesperson for Mountain Valley Pipeline said the company respects the opinions of those opposed to natural gas infrastructure, and continues to work to address concerns they may have about the MVP project.

The company said it looks forward to resolving the remaining permitting issues and completing the project.

Since construction was suspended, it’s been relatively quiet here along the pipeline right-of-way, but that could change over the next several weeks, with key decisions by federal regulators and legal challenges in local courts, but opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, including the tree sitters on Yellow Finch Lane, say their fight is far from over.

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