State Senator files first amendment lawsuit against U.S. Forest Service

Published: May. 2, 2018 at 7:39 PM EDT
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The pipeline protester known as "Nutty" has been living in her tree stand for over a month.

"I can't just watch," she told us, "and I think there are so many people who have been finding different ways to get involved."

When we spoke with her in late March, the forest service had not surrounded the monopod in Giles County. Since then they have cut off all supplies, and closed Pocahontas Road to her supporters.

On Wednesday afternoon, Fairfax Senator Chap Petersen filed a First Amendment lawsuit in Roanoke Federal Court.

By preventing people from using the road and requiring anyone who wants to reach the protest to hike through steep terrain, he says the U.S. Forest Service is restricting opponents' first amendment rights.

Doug Chancey is one of three plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

"You have to cross the mountainside, in the middle of the mountainside," Chancey said, "so it's really a deer trail and deer are much more agile than people."

"I think all Americans, we have a right basically to free speech, and freedom of the press," Petersen said in an interview. "And if you have a political event that's going on and people want to go up there and observe or support, or support the pipeline or whatever they want to do they have a right to be there."

The U.S. Forest Service has responded to the lawsuit.

A spokesperson for the Mountain Valley Pipeline said the company is not a party to the lawsuit, and hasn't had an opportunity to review the complaint.

Petersen doesn't know when the case will be heard, but he filed a motion for an emergency injunction.