Hearing scheduled for pipeline protestors believed to be up in a tree

Appalachians Against Pipelines says they are tree-sitting in the Jefferson National Forest to keep the Mountain Valley Pipeline from cutting down trees. (Photo: Appalachians Against Pipelines)

MONROE CO., WV. (WSET) -- A temporary restraining order has been granted against a group of people believed to be sitting in a tree soon to be cut down.

The group Appalachians Against Pipelines has said they're doing it to save the trees in the Jefferson National Forest from being cut down by the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

It's been a long fought battle for the people of Giles County and also Monroe County in West Virginia.

Maury Johnson said, "They surveyed my farm 2 to 3 years ago." His farm has been in his family for about 150 years.

That surveying led to Johnson's new morning ritual. He explained, "This morning, I got up, took care of a few calves. Then I did a little circuit to see if there's any tree cutting going on in the area."

He didn't find any in the area on Wednesday. He believes that's in part because of a group of tree-sitters. Johnson says people from the group Appalachians Against Pipelines have been sitting in a tree just over the Virginia border for about a week.

"Those folks on top of peters mountain- in my opinion, they are true American heroes," Johnson proclaimed.

But not everybody agrees. Citing a March 31st deadline to get trees cut, the Mountain Valley Pipeline was granted a temporary restraining order to get 7 people they think are in the trees down. It doesn't explain how they'll do it.

The court complaint, filed in Monroe County, lists 2 people by name and then up to 5 others named John Doe. Both of the named people, Ashley Brown and Lucas Connolly, have addresses in Chesapeake, Virginia.

Despite the temporary restraining order, the group says they are going to stay in the trees regardless. In a statement, a member said "From the beginning, MVP has tried to strong arm people all along the route to get their way. They’ve intimidated people with constant letters, surveyors, and private security. When that hasn’t worked they threaten and pursue law suits against people who don’t want this pipeline."

The statement continued, saying "MVP issues letters and notices to intimidate and scare people. However, this notice tells us that MVP is scared. MVP is scared because they are learning that people are tired of their intimidation all across the region. We remain unwilling to stand down in the face of their destruction."

Johnson says he really thinks their work will help keep the pipeline from coming through his family farm. With conviction, he said "I don't think there's any doubt it will be stopped. At what point, and what part of construction it will be stopped remains to be seen."

The Mountain Valley Pipeline says it is determined to have as little impact on the environment as possible and says during its construction it will bring 81 million dollars in revenue to Virginia and West Virginia.

The temporary restraining order is just that- temporary. A hearing on the motion for it is scheduled for Tuesday in Monroe County.

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