State Police continue to investigate arson involving pipeline equipment

Published: Sep. 8, 2023 at 8:43 PM EDT
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SALEM, Va. (WDBJ) - Protests against the Mountain Valley Pipeline have increased as construction of the project resumed in western Virginia, but one incident in particular has raised the concern of law enforcement.

A case of arson in late August destroyed construction equipment used for the project. And it is one of the first examples of intentional damage in western Virginia.

“These fires were set,” said Virginia State Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Rick Garletts. “And I’m going to say it was an arson, because you had two pieces of equipment on opposite sides of the road that were burned in the same manner.”

“These were large pieces of equipment,” said Virginia State Police Special Agent Jay Wheat. “One of them was a tracked excavator and the other was a sweeper, and the Mountain Valley Pipeline officials informed us that it was somewhere close to a million dollars worth of property damage that was done.”

Other protests have resulted in arrests and charges, but these law enforcement officers make a distinction between the majority of pipeline demonstrations, and the one on August 31st.

“We’re very concerned about the risk it poses, not only to the public, but first responders,” Wheat said in an interview Friday morning.

“This was an arson, and it poses a significant risk to not only MVP, but the general public as well,” Garletts said, “and if they continue to do the arson stuff, it’s going to be a bigger problem.”

They cited the environmental harm, the risk of wildfire and the potential for personal injury if similar incidents happen in the future.

The Virginia State Police investigation continues with assistance from the FBI and other agencies. And investigators continue to ask for the public’s help to solve this case.