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Pipeline protesters face judge in Montgomery County

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 7:20 PM EDT
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CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline who were arrested during a protest in August were in court Monday.

Ten defendants were convicted of misdemeanors and fined, but they won’t be spending time in jail.

In their agreement with prosecutors, each of the defendants was found guilty of a single misdemeanor, obstructing free passage of others.

“I’m disappointed that the governments that are supposed to protect us are instead punishing us,” said Peatmoss Ellis, one of the defendants. “We’re here today out of love and concern for the future and the future generations to come.”

They were charged during an August 9 protest on Cove Hollow Road, an action that blocked pipeline construction crews for several hours.

Their civil disobedience, they said, was an act of conscience fueled by their concern about climate change.

“We’re going through a climate disaster and people must take decisive action,” said Alex Williams.

“I know that I was on the right side of history,” added Jim Steitz. “The people building this pipeline will not be able to say that.”

Mountain Valley Pipeline spokesperson Natalie Cox released the following statement Monday evening.

“While we respect the opinions of those who oppose the MVP project and natural gas infrastructure in general, there is no excuse for the unlawful actions taken by these activists,” she wrote in an email. “We believe there is common ground for all Virginians – and, indeed, all Americans – to reject the kind of attention-seeking, criminal behavior promoted by certain project opponents such as those engaged in these types of activities.”

Each of the ten defendants received a suspended jail sentence and a fine of $150.

They are prohibited from going on MVP property or easements for 12 months, and the judge ordered them to stay out of Montgomery County for a year.

The pipeline opponents said they have no regrets.

“The climate change issue is just too important to sit idly by,” said Daryl Downing, “so again I have no regrets and I take the lumps that the court felt it was necessary to heap on me.”

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