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Judge says she can’t halt Virginia mountain pipeline blasts

August 15, 2021 GMT

ROANOKE, Va. (AP) — A federal judge declined to block the blasting of bedrock on a Virginia mountain where a natural gas pipeline is supposed to be laid, saying she lacks authority to do so.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Dillon comes after the property owner on Bent Mountain in Roanoke County sought an injunction to halt the work involving the Mountain Valley Pipeline.

Dillon said Friday her court was not the proper jurisdiction to resolve the dispute, noting that landowner John Coles Terry III had already sought action from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, The Roanoke Times reported.

An attorney for Terry’s family asked last week for a temporary injunction on the drilling and blasting. Construction crews had started boring holes to prepare for explosives that would clear a trench for the buried 42-inch (107-centimeter) diameter pipe.

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Terry’s motion said the blasting could contaminate his well water and that of others downstream. But the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and pipeline officials have said they’ve not seen evidence of the potential harm described in the motion.

Terry said after Friday’s hearing that crews had yet to reach the portion of his land where construction would most likely impact his water.

The planned 303-mile (488-kilometer) mile pipeline will take natural gas drilled from the Marcellus and Utica shale formations and transport it through West Virginia and Virginia. The project has faced legal challenges from environmental groups. A 75-mile extension into central North Carolina also has been proposed.