SCRANTON -- A company was given the approval by a federal judge to cut down dozens of maple trees in Susquehanna County so a new gas pipeline could be built.
But several families have protested because they are trying to protect the trees and their maple syrup business.
The standoff led to a showdown Friday in federal court.
Natural gas company Williams is trying to put in a pipeline through Susquehanna County to link natural gas to New York and New England customers.
A judge gave permission to U.S. Marshals and state police to now arrest anyone who stops workers from cutting down trees on the Holleran's property.
Walking out of the federal courthouse in Scranton, members of the Holleran family of Susquehanna County were relieved that the judge decided not to charge them with contempt after protesters blocked workers from cutting down trees on the family's property.
"The judge agreed we haven't done anything wrong yet. I appreciate him on that and agree with his decision there. I think he just clarified what the order means so we don't violate it in the future," said Megan Holleran.
The judge granted the U.S. Marshals, along with state police permission to arrest anyone caught stopping workers from cutting down trees. That means no one anywhere near trees being cut, up to150 feet away.
The Holleran family spent the last few weeks waiting as the family, friends, and environmentalists stood guard on the property protecting those maple trees for the family's syrup operations.
They even turned around workers who showed up last week to cut down the trees to make way for the natural gas pipeline through the Holleran's property.
"In light of this, I don't want to do anything that will cause any harm to my family."
A federal judge previously gave Williams eminent domain to use the land for the pipeline.
Representatives with Williams told newswatch16 the pipeline plan tried to avoid the Holleran property, but couldn't due to certain obstacles.
Now, representatives with Williams are relieved that they can finally continue clearing a path for a natural gas pipeline before the March 31 environmental deadline.
"It is important. We are doing this to meet the environmental conditions of being able to clear trees in the windows that are allowed," said Michael Atchie, public outreach Williams.
A representative with Williams did not have a date set on when those trees would be cut down, but he did say it is imminent. The company released the following statement:
“We appreciate the court’s prompt resolution of the matter. Our top priority remains ensuring that these activities are conducted safely and efficiently, allowing Constitution Pipeline to comply with the environmental conditions of the FERC order. Once in service, this important infrastructure project will connect one of the largest natural gas supply areas in the world – right here in Pennsylvania – with communities in the northeastern United States, so that they too can enjoy the benefits of this cost-effective and environmentally beneficial energy resource.”