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Mountain Valley pipeline at a stalemate: What’s next?
Mountain Valley pipeline at a stalemate: What’s next?

Looking out from the library and across a field, a long Appalachian mountain rises in the distance, reddish-brown, except for a strip of synthetic green.

The swath marks the path of the Mountain Valley pipeline, cut into mountainsides around this community outside Roanoke. Covered with gray or green matting, the path generally marks where trees have been cleared but no pipe has been buried.

This represents the most visible sign of the regulatory stalemate that has left this region in a state of suspended animation for more than a year.

The pipeline’s developers say the best way to resolve the standoff is to let them finish the pipeline, pull up the matting, and plant grass along the path. But determined local opponents, backed up by attorneys for well-known environmental groups, are ready to keep fighting.

“It’s not a choice. It’s a responsibility,” said Roberta Bondurant, a lawyer who lives here and has fought the project for years. “We’re not going anywhere.”

As another construction season looms, several outcomes are possible.

The developers could fold and walk away, a possibility they dismiss. Or they could persuade Congress to step in, sweep aside the regulatory process and push the project across the finish line. Or the stalemate could continue playing out in courtrooms, boardrooms, and hallways of bureaucracy like a game of rock, paper, scissors.

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