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Environment

Authorities Have Forced Anti-Pipeline Protesters Out Of The Blue Ridge Mountains

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

For more than two years, protesters have been trying to block the construction of a natural gas pipeline through Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains. Well, that fight came to an end today. A court order authorized the use of force, and police went up in a crane to remove the last protester who'd attached themselves to a tree. Robbie Harris of member station WVTF in Blacksburg reports.

ROBBIE HARRIS, BYLINE: All through the winter and the one before that, they stood their ground - an array of protesters sitting in trees, rotating in and out for months at a time, trying to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline. They occupied a steep section of forest in the pipeline's path, living on platforms high in the canopy there.

ACRE: They had a negotiator here earlier with a bullhorn trying to negotiate us out of the trees.

HARRIS: That's a protester who goes by the name Acre, who wouldn't give their real name because of possible legal consequences of the protest.

ACRE: They're going to have to take us out of these trees.

HARRIS: This week, law enforcement did just that. Yesterday, they extracted one of the two remaining protesters using a crane. And today, they came for Acre, the last protester, who'd been livestreaming the action from their perch in the tree.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ACRE: And here comes a very, very slow extraction. All right. I might have to go.

HARRIS: Officials say neither of the protesters was injured. They're both in custody, and one arrested yesterday has been charged with trespassing. Protesters say it was the longest tree-sitting action in the Eastern United States. Although it's now over, the Mountain Valley Pipeline still faces hurdles. The 303-mile project that traverses Virginia is way over budget at nearly $6 billion. And it still lacks all the authorizations for the 42-inch-diameter pipeline to cross hundreds of streams and wetlands in this rural, mountainous region.

Initially, there were two natural gas pipelines planned for Virginia, but Dominion and Duke Energy scrapped their joint project last year. The company building the pipeline is Pittsburgh-based EQT Partners. It says the pipeline is environmentally safe, but the company has been fined multiple times for infractions. In a statement, a company spokesperson said the pipeline's delays are affecting consumers. Those delays now amount to more than 932 days and counting.

For NPR News, I'm Robbie Harris in Blacksburg, Va. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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