One-year anniversary of tree-sit (copy)

Protesters have occupied the trees off Yellow Finch Lane near Elliston since September 2018.

A woman who was said to be up a tree has been dropped from Mountain Valley Pipeline’s legal attempt to have a group of protesters removed.

Jordan Romeo was recently non-suited from the case at the request of attorneys for the pipeline, according to court records.

Last year, Mountain Valley filed a request for a preliminary injunction, which it said was needed to remove two tree-sitters and their supporters from a protest site in Montgomery County that has blocked tree-cutting for the construction project since September 2018.

Occupants of the tree stands have changed over time, and their identities have often remained unknown to pipeline officials.

Although Mountain Valley has referred to “tree sitter 1” and “tree sitter 2” in its request for an injunction, the company has named some of the approximately 15 protesters it has sued.

Security workers for the pipeline identified Romeo as being in one of the tree stands in the pipeline’s right of way off Yellow Finch Lane near Elliston last Aug. 6.

However, Romeo maintains she was at work in Durango, Colorado, that day, and has cellphone records and the testimony of coworkers to back her up, her attorneys wrote in October in a motion to dismiss her from the case.

Efforts to schedule a hearing were complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, which has limited court proceedings.

In a March 23 letter to a pipeline attorney, Romeo’s lawyers objected to a telephone hearing and said evidence needed to be presented. “We are not opposed to scheduling the hearing three or four months from now when it may be safe for Ms. Romeo and any of our witnesses to travel from Colorado,” Terry Frank wrote.

About two weeks later, Mountain Valley moved to drop Romeo from the case. The brief motion filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court did not state a reason, and a Mountain Valley spokesperson declined to comment Friday on litigation.

An April 28 order granting the motion stated that the case against the remaining defendants remains pending. No court date has been scheduled, according to defense co-counsel Tammy Belinsky.

The tree-sit is currently the longest active blockade of a natural gas pipeline on the East Coast, according to Appalachians Against Pipelines. Protesters say construction has caused environmental damage, and when finished the 303-mile pipeline will contribute to climate change.

In March, the group announced on its Facebook page that another tree stand had gone up. A member of Appalachians Against Pipelines said Friday that all three stands remain occupied.

Laurence Hammack covers environmental issues, including the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and business and enterprise stories. He has been a reporter for The Roanoke Times for more than three decades.

Load comments