Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC sued Daniel Guidry and Ashley Stecher Wagner on Wednesday in federal court in Roanoke, Virginia, claiming they coordinated with others to illegally attach themselves to the land and construction equipment being used to build a segment of the pipeline in the Jefferson National Forest last month.
The lawsuit said law enforcement ultimately removed the protesters after sawing through devices anchoring them in place, and said the removal process caused “substantial delays and expenses” for the developer.
The developer said it has a right to build the pipeline in the Virginia forest and that the obstruction violated that right. The lawsuit noted Congress expressly ratified federal approvals for the 303-mile (488-km) pipeline running through West Virginia and Virginia earlier this year.
The developer is asking for undisclosed compensatory and punitive damages, and an injunction barring Guidry and Wagner from entering the construction area, blocking access to it or helping others interfere with construction.
Mountain Valley is owned by units of Equitrans Midstream, as well as NextEra Energy, Consolidated Edison and RGC Resources among others.
Guidry and Wagner, who allegedly worked in coordination with others to obstruct the construction, could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.
The pipeline was initially projected to be finished by late 2018 but was delayed by numerous legal challenges filed by environmental groups that claimed it would cause environmental damage and increase the use of climate change-causing natural gas. Supporters of the project have said it is key to further unlocking Appalachian gas and bolstering American energy security.
The Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ended most of the remaining legal challenges to the project in August, months after Democrats and Republicans in Congress struck a debt limit deal that included express authorizations for the pipeline. The project is now expected to be finished in the first quarter of 2024.
This past summer, the developer also sued protesters in state court for obstructing construction on remaining portions of the pipeline.
The case is Mountain Valley Pipeline v. Daniel Guidry and Ashley Stecher Wagner, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, case No. 7:23-cv-00727.
For Mountain Valley: Wade Massie and Seth Land of Penn Stuart & Eskridge
For the protesters: Counsel information not immediately available
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(Reporting by Clark Mindock)