Law enforcement response to pipeline complaints differs across county line

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FRANKLIN CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Carolyn Reilly broadcast her latest interaction with pipeline surveyors on Facebook Live.

"We're down by our creek, and surveyors are about to enter our property," Reily told her Facebook audience. "And we're going to document this, because we're going to kick them off and tell them to go."

Reilly and her family own 58 acres between Boones Mill and Rocky Mount. The route of the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline would cross their property.

They oppose the project, and have notified the company that survey teams are not welcome on their land.

When the crews appeared Thursday morning, the family called 911, and Franklin County deputies responded.

"So you guys actually saw them on your property," a deputy asked during the video Reilly recorded. "Yeah, they're there right now ," she responded.

In Roanoke County, the police department says it will neither help nor hinder the surveyors from doing their job.

In Franklin County, the Sheriffs Office has taken a more active role.

The department says its top priority is keeping the peace, but deputies have also advised survey teams that landowners want them to leave, and they've advised landowners to file trespassing charges.

"So we're very grateful our sheriff's department here in Franklin County is standing with landowners," Reilly told WDBJ7, "and protecting them against trespassing, against criminal type activity, and siding with the people and working to keep the peace here in our community."

In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for the Mountain
Valley Pipeline said "it's unfortunate that landowners and other continue to interfere with the important and necessary survery work that is required as part of the regulatory process."

"We are not offering comment on any specific issues that may, or may not, have occurred in the field; and the MVP project team remains confident that we have the legal authority under Virginia statute to access property for survey activity and expects to continue this important survey work in accordance with the strict requirements of Virginia law."

The Franklin County Sheriff's office has encouraged the pipeline company to seek court orders to gain access to property when the landowners object. And if that happens the department says it will enforce the order.

The Reillys know that is a possibility, but say they are taking it one step at a time.

They have been notified that survey crews might return on Thursday.

They say they'll be waiting.