A judge has given a mother and daughter until midnight Saturday to come down from two trees where they have been blocking construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline.
In an opinion released late Friday afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth Dillon found 61-year-old Theresa “Red” Terry and her 30-year-old daughter, Theresa Minor Terry, in contempt of a court order that granted the pipeline company access to their family’s land on Bent Mountain.
Should the Terrys come down voluntarily from two tree stands they have occupied since early April, the women would not be fined — although Roanoke County police would likely be waiting to charge them with trespassing, obstruction of justice and interfering with the property rights of Mountain Valley.
But if the protesters stick to their stands, they will face fines of $1,000 a day, Dillon ruled.
The judge also set a second deadline: If either one of the women remains up a tree after midnight on Thursday, Dillon will authorize the U.S. Marshals to arrest them. Details on how that might be accomplished would be outlined in an additional order.
Several weeks after the Terrys took to the trees, Mountain Valley asked that they be held in contempt for violating one of Dillon’s earlier orders, which gave the company, through eminent domain, a forced easement to run its natural gas pipeline through their land.
The Terrys’ resistance was one of four similar protests along the approximately 100-mile route the pipeline will take through Southwest Virginia.
“The Terrys and many of their supporters have expressed their belief that the MVP project is ill-advised and a threat to their land and the area’s water supplies,” Dillon wrote.
But regulatory agencies and courts have found in Mountain Valley’s favor.
“The court understands that the Terrys and others are disappointed and frustrated with the situation,” Dillon wrote. “But the Terrys have resorted to actions that clearly violate the court’s orders and MVP’s rights under it.”
“Even if their conduct is viewed as a form of civil disobedience intended to focus the public’s attention or to express their opposition to the project, those who disobey valid orders of a court should be prepared to face the consequences of doing so.”
Dillon also found John Coles Terry, the husband and father of the two tree-sitters, in contempt for supporting them. He will be fined $2,000.
All of the fines will go to Mountain Valley Pipeline to cover its damages.
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