Woman protests in trees on planned pipeline land

Woman says she's prepared to remain there for weeks to delay construction

By Tommy Lopez - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. - A Roanoke County woman is protesting the Mountain Valley pipeline by staying 30 feet above the ground in trees that are in the pipeline’s path.

A woman calling herself “Red” hasn’t come down since going up Monday. She said Tuesday that she’s well-stocked with food and is prepared to remain there for weeks.

“As long as it takes,” she said. "I'm ready to take on this fight."

She said crews called the police yesterday to try to force her down.

She set up camp on Bent Mountain in a wooden stand on private property off Pour Mountain Road. The pipeline plans show construction going through the property and crossing her land nearby, both of which Mountain Valley obtained through an easement, using eminent domain.

The 61-year-old is hopeful that tree-sitting can delay construction, which she and others have long-criticized for its projected impact on the environment.

“I would like to enjoy these woods and not have to wait 200 years for them to grow back,” she said.

She’s worried construction will affect water quality with a creek running a few feet away, and a steep incline that she said will pose dangers for sediment shift. She added that the project will put the area at risk for being impacted by an explosion.

“My kids will end up with this. I don't want them living on a bomb,” she said.

Neighbors who also oppose the pipeline walked through the woods and over a creek Tuesday to say thank you to her.

"We're very proud of what Red's doing and support her 100 percent,” said Bruce Coffey, whose property nearby is also in the pipeline’s path.

The woman said the land has been in her family for seven generations. Orange markers located a few feet from the trees in which she’s positioned show the pipeline’s path. Blue and white markers show the route for a service road planned to go through the area.

She said another protest, which has lasted for more than a month in trees just over the West Virginia line, was part of her inspiration to tree-sit. She said a woman who has taken part in that protest was a “hero” of hers.

Mountain Valley spokeswoman Natalie Cox said Tuesday that crews have finished cutting down trees under the requirements for the restrictions related to endangering bats and added that the project is still on schedule.

The full statement from Mountain Valley is below.

“Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is pleased to report 100% completion of all tree-felling activities requiring time-of-year restrictions related to endangered bats. In addition, tree felling in the Jefferson National Forest is 99.4% complete, with the outstanding portion being the approximately 140 feet that remains occupied by project opponents. As this is such a minute portion of MVP’s 303-mile route, the disruption created by opponents has not changed the overall outcome of the project, which remains on target for a late 2018 in-service.”
 
“While we appreciate the support we have received across the region, we understand that the efforts and progress we have made to plan and design a pipeline route that will protect cultural and historic resources, as well as preserve sensitive and environmental species, may not satisfy those opposed to underground, natural gas infrastructure. We respect the opinions of those who are opposed to the MVP project; we want to ensure everyone’s safety throughout the various phases of the construction process; and we look forward to moving forward with this important infrastructure project.”

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