CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has granted permission for Mountain Valley Pipeline to cut trees in a small but contentious area of the Jefferson National Forest, beyond what had been a March 31 deadline.
FERC granted written permission Monday to cut trees in an area of about 0.31 acre.
The area of the national forest — along the West Virginia/Virginia line — has been the location of protests by those who oppose construction of the 303-mile pipeline.
Protesters have spent months on treetop platforms in the national forest, blocking the tree cutting.
The deadline to cut trees was March 31 for areas considered sensitive as bat and migratory bird habitats.
The variance granted Monday by FERC was also approved by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Protesters started blocking the tree cutting in late February by sitting on platforms in an area along the Appalachian Scenic Trail on Peters Mountain in Monroe County.
The protest continued on past the March 31 deadline.
The treetop protests still continue now, although one of two platforms in Monroe County was disassembled a few days ago after a protester left it.
Mountain Valley Pipeline would extend 42-inch diameter natural gas pipeline over 303 miles to transport West Virginia natural gas into southern Virginia.
The pipeline would go through Wetzel, Harrison, Doddridge, Lewis, Braxton, Webster, Nicholas, Greenbrier, Fayette, Summers, and Monroe counties in West Virginia.