ELLISTON, Virginia, September 5, 2018 (ENS) – Early Wednesday morning, two new tree sits were erected in the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline in Montgomery County, Virginia. These blockades are intended to protect trees on the pipeline easement that have not been cleared, and are located within five miles of a site where the pipeline is proposed to cross the Roanoke River.

Banners hanging at the tree sits spell out, “Water Protectors, Mountain Defenders, We Won’t Back Down” and “No Prisons, No Pipelines.”

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Tree sitters protest the Mountain Valley Natural Gas Pipeline, Sept. 5, 2018 (Photo courtesy Lauren Bowman)

The pipeline fighters in the trees are Lauren Bowman, a 24-year-old resident of Montgomery County, and a second protester who is called Nettle.

“I am compelled to fight back against this pipeline because I cannot sit back and ignore what is happening to my home and to the mountains that I have known and loved since I was a child. I cannot sit back and watch as an extractive industry threatens this region, my family, and my community,” said Bowman, a wildlife biologist.

“The pervasive issues in our society that have allowed this pipeline project to come to fruition in the first place must be put to an end,” she said. “We have put our trust in a system that has consistently failed to protect people.”

“Choosing to protect the natural world is not a choice against job prosperity or progress as some people call it. Environmental health and sustainability is not separate from the economy and our survival, but is an integral part of it. We are not separate from the environment and we would be nothing without it,” Bowman said.

“The opposition against this pipeline, fracking, and other destructive practices is so much more than a political issue,” she said. “It is the health and prosperity of everyone and every living creature on Earth.”

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Pipeline right-of-way corridor through the mountains. (Photo courtesy Rick Webb)

The Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 42-inch-diameter fracked natural gas pipeline, was first proposed in 2014. Plans call for it to span 303 miles from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia. As an interstate pipeline it will be regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC.

The pipeline will be constructed and owned by Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, a joint venture of EQT Midstream Partners, LP; NextEra US Gas Assets, LLC; Con Edison Transmission, Inc.; WGL Midstream; and RGC Midstream, LLC.

With a supply of natural gas from Marcellus and Utica shale production, the Mountain Valley Pipeline is expected to provide up to two million dekatherms, or two billion cubic feet, per day of transmission capacity to markets in the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic regions of the United States.

Pipeline fighters have been resisting this project all along its West Virginia and Virginia route for the past four years.

They say it will harm family farms, national forest land and historic sites and impair streams and drinking water supplies. It will threaten the health and safety of nearby residents, worsen the impacts of climate change, and impede investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

A study by Key-Log Economics, LLC, on behalf of several local citizens groups, estimates the total cost of the Mountain Valley Pipeline to the eight counties it crosses to be between $14.5 and $15.3 billion.

Dozens of protesters have been arrested, fined, and cited for their efforts to protect the communities and ecosystems the pipeline threatens. The tree sit erected today continues a series of aerial blockades that delayed pipeline construction this past spring, including a tree sit on Peters Mountain that prevented tree clearing for 95 days.

“We must fight for ourselves. No one else will come to our aid in these times,” said Nettle. “The cops will arrest us for our actions of self defense. The courts will side with private property and corporate greed, and every politician will continue pretending that the fate of the world on fire is up to bills, filibusters, votes, and campaign donations.”

Last month, Mountain Valley Pipeline construction was temporarily slowed by a Stop Work Order issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee, FERC, after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit canceled the permit that had allowed the pipeline to be built in the Jefferson National Forest.

On August 29, FERC voted to reverse that decision, allowing full construction to continue on non-federal lands. The agency reasoned that continued construction is the only way to mitigate damage to the environment.

With these orders issued by the FERC and the Fourth Circuit Court, Mountain Valley Pipeline is now able to return about 1,000 workers who had been suspended from work on the project.

But today’s action shows that the pipeline fighters are not backing down.

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