Pipeline protest continues despite challenging weather conditions

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MONTGOMERY CO., Va. (WDBJ7) — Mountain Valley Pipeline opponent Phillip Flagg has experienced high winds, heavy snow and sub-freezing temperatures since he arrived at a tree sit in October.

Thursday, he said the challenging conditions haven't caused him to reconsider the protest.

Flagg said he was surprised the tree sit has now continued for 150 days, but the cold weather hasn't deterred him.

"We know in advance when these things are coming so we are able to prepare for them," Flagg said Thursday. "And in my experience, it's not rocket science. You can figure out what you really need to survive in the cold or snow."

A spokesperson for the Mountain Valley Pipeline said weather patterns such as the current cold front demonstrate the importance of having adequate pipeline infrastructure to ensure uninterrupted delivery of natural gas for heating.homes and businesses.

Natalie Cox said the company respects opponents' views, but is concerned that actions taken by a few have placed their health and safety at risk.

Following is the complete statement from MVP:

"Demand for natural gas is amplified during periods of extreme cold because the fuel is affordable and efficient for heating, cooking and other uses."

"Weather patterns such as the current cold front affecting much of the Midwest, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions demonstrate the importance of having adequate pipeline infrastructure to ensure uninterrupted delivery of natural gas for heating homes and businesses. While we respect industry opponents’ views, we are concerned that the actions taken by a few of them have placed their health and safety at risk."

"The Mountain Valley Pipeline project is currently 70 percent complete and, with taps planned in Franklin and Montgomery counties, will directly serve residents and employers in the region and will meet the public’s growing need for clean-burning, domestic natural gas across the Roanoke Valley."

Flagg isn't planning to come down any time soon.

"As long as there's any chance we can stop it," Flagg said, "I feel like we've got to give it a try. Will it work out? Who knows. We'll see."

The tree sitters say this is not a symbolic protest. They're trying to physically stop construction of the pipeline.

Despite the weather, they say they're prepared to stay much longer.

The protesters are the latest in a series to scale trees along the route of the natural gas pipeline, which begins in West Virginia and runs through southwest Virginia before connecting with the more than 10,000-mile (16,000-kilometer) Transco pipeline system in Pittsylvania County. Some of the tree-sitters have faced charges or fines.