Virginia Tech professor charged and released for Mountain Valley Pipeline protest

Pipeline construction has come to a halt on Brush Mountain

By Shayne Dwyer - Reporter, Heather Butterworth - Digital Content Producer, Irisha Jones - Reporter

BLACKSBURG, Va. - Authorities have removed Emily Satterwhite from Mountain Valley Pipeline construction equipment.

The extraction process required two aerial lifts, an angle grinder and a smaller grinding tool. It took nearly two hours to complete and was part of the nearly 15 hours Satterwhite spent attached to the excavator. The lockbox device consisted of a metal solid metal outer pipe that bent at a right angle. She also had other materials inside the pipe to make it difficult to remove.

Virginia State Police and crews on scene requested Satterwhite come down throughout the day. State Police said after examining the device she used to attach herself, there was no way for her to remove it without being physically cut out of it.

Satterwhite was taken into custody and transported to the Montgomery County Magistrate's Office in Christiansburg after being checked by a doctor on scene. Satterwhite said she was charged with interfering with someone else's property, but not for resisting arrest or obstruction. She was released on bond and will appear in court in July. She also said police on scene treated her with professionalism and were more respectful than the police she experienced while supporting protestors on national forest land earlier this year.


A Blacksburg woman, who is an associate professor at Virginia Tech, has locked herself to construction equipment as a protest against the Mountain Valley Pipeline. 

Emily Satterwhite is an associate professor in Appalachian studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

A Virginia Tech spokeswoman told 10 News that the university supports its faculty's First Amendment rights and that the right to engage in civil protest falls inside these parameters.

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Pipeline construction came to a halt on Brush Mountain on Thursday morning. 

Credit: Appalachians Against Pipelines

The blockade, carried out by Satterwhite, is the most recent action in an ongoing campaign to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

She has been locked to the equipment since 6 a.m. Thursday. She wants to protect the land and water that the pipeline could affect.

She was surrounded by a banner that read "Water is life - we won't back down."

"I'm here because for three and a half years we've been fighting this stupid pipeline that nobody wants," stated Satterwhite.

Natalie Cox, Mountain Valley Pipeline spokeswoman, gave this statement: "While we respect the opinions of those who are opposed to MVP and other important natural gas infrastructure projects, it is unfortunate that a select few continue to engage in this type of unsafe activity."

A few supporters came to watch as Satterwhite sat locked to the top of the excavator.

"Emily is here to make a stance. To make her own personal stance against what so many before us have been fighting for for decades and centuries. To protect this earth and protect it for the next seven generations will make sure our water are still here for our children and their children and their children," said Trish McLawhorn.

People close to her say that it won't be easy for her to give in after researching and studying the project and its possible environmental effects.

"I want to say this is not a game. This is about our livelihoods and our survival and protecting our waters in our futures and for generations and generations ot come," said Satterwhite.

Pipeline resistor Jammie Hale said he loves seeing his friend take action against a company that he believes is stealing away their rights and land.

"To stop Mountain Valley Pipeline and EQT. Period stop them or delay them as long as we can until they give up," stated Hale.

Hale said that he was the one that was supposed to be locked to the top of the machine, but things didn't go as planned.

"I got summoned to go to court yesterday by Mountain Valley Pipeline. More harassment, yeah, so I'm due back in court," said Hale.

Some people are hoping that Satterwhite is the one to bring some kind of better outcome to the situation.

“Emily is always successful in her quest. So I think that’s a day just by taking a stand and being a mom who is doing mom things to protect the environment is a success," said Trish McLawhorn.

Dozens of police were at the scene trying to find the best way to get Satterwhite down. State police told her that she was in violation of state wall, but didn't specify which ones.

Blacksburg emergency officials are urging supporters to ask her to come down because they are worried about her health.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

Appalachians Against Pipelines/Facebook

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