Pipeline opponents arrested as tree-cutting continues on Bent Mountain

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ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Roanoke County Police arrested two people Wednesday, following a standoff between opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline and a work crew felling trees.

One protestor was taken into custody after refusing to move away from the edge of the pipeline corridor.

Another was charged with giving false identification to police during an earlier incident.

The arrests took place as workers armed with chainsaws, cut down trees on a number of different parcels in the Bent Mountain area.

And when the group of protestors gathered near the right-of-way in one location and prevented a crew from continuing its work, Roanoke County Police responded.

The officer told protestors they would have to step back 160 feet, or about two tree lengths, to allow the work to continue safely.

"They're cutting trees right now," said pipeline opponent Mara Robbins, "and people are getting arrested for trying to stand in the way, for trying to say this is wrong. You're not allowed to do this."

Pipeline opponents say the tree felling should have stopped at the end of March to protect endangered species including some bats, but the pipeline company says it has completed the work in areas with time-of-year restrictions.

The land where pipeline opponents made their stand Wednesday belongs to Mary Beth Coffey. She said the sound trees falling near her home was painful.

"I've hiked among these trees many times, and have strong attachment to these trees," Coffey told WDBJ7, "so it's been very difficult to watch them take my friends away."

A spokesperson for the Mountain Valley Pipeline released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

"Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) is pleased to report 100% completion of all tree-felling activities requiring time-of-year restrictions related to endangered bats.

In addition, tree felling in the Jefferson National Forest is 99.4% complete, with the outstanding portion being the approximately 140 feet that remains occupied by project opponents.

As this is such a minute portion of MVP’s 303-mile route, the disruption created by opponents has not changed the overall outcome of the project, which is on target for a late 2018 in-service."

Roanoke County released the following statement on the arrests Wednesday afternoon:

"Roanoke County Police today charged two individuals related to Mountain Valley Pipeline activities in Bent Mountain.

Stephanie Stallings Davis, 37, of Winston-Salem, NC was charged with Interfere with Property Rights (Code 18.2-121). Davis was interfering with permitted construction activities.

Zakaria Ismael Kronemer, 24, of Silver Spring, MD was arrested due to an outstanding warrant for providing false identification to law enforcement as a result of an incident in Bent Mountain on Monday, April 9.

There were approximately 12-15 individuals, both local and from out of the area, in opposition of the pipeline activity today. Officers described the contact as civil, with no threats of violence or serious issues."