Legal issues take center stage in fight over natural gas pipelines

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline were back in Roanoke federal court Wednesday afternoon, pursuing a case they say involves their First Amendment rights.

Three plaintiffs are challenging a U.S. Forest Service order closing Pocahontas Road in Giles County, a gravel road that leads to the monopod where a woman who identifies herself as "Nutty" has been protesting since late March.

"The Forest Service decision to close Pocahontas Road was overkill, was more than what was necessary," said Chap Petersen, the state senator from northern Virginia who filed the lawsuit. " It took away the ability of people to access the protest site."

"I feel that it's very important for all of us to be able to exercise our First Amendment rights, said Marian Mollin, one of the plaintiffs. "That is a cornerstone of American citizenship."

We were unable to speak with forest service officials outside the courthouse, but during the hearing, the forest supervisor of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests said the decision to close the road was made to ensure public safety.

Judge Elizabeth Dillon said she will rule on the motion for a preliminary injunction as quickly as she can.

And opinions are expected soon in other cases as well.

The federal appeals court in Richmond heard arguments in three cases involving the Mountain Valley Pipeline last week.

And this week, the Rutherford Institute also sued the U.S. Forest Service, challenging the treatment of "Nutty," the Giles monopod protester.

The lawsuit demands that government officials allow a physician to examine the protester and provide medical care.