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Protesters could be arrested for trespassing on own land

HUNTINGDON, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania landowners could face arrest for trespassing on their own property if they violate a court order obtained by a pipeline company.

The Gerhart family of Huntingdon County has been battling Sunoco Logistics’ Mariner East 2 pipeline. They’re challenging Sunoco’s use of eminent domain to lay the $2.5 billion pipeline across a portion of their 27-acre property.

An order from a county judge gives Sunoco the ability to have the Gerharts or any other protester trespassing on the company’s right of way arrested by law enforcement. Sunoco called it an “emergency measure” in response to an ongoing protest that has included sitting in trees on the property.

The 350-mile-long pipeline across southern Pennsylvania that state environmental regulators approved in February will carry propane, butane and ethane from the Marcellus Shale natural gas formation to an export terminal near Philadelphia.

The Gerharts are among a handful of landowners challenging eminent domain. Their case is before a state appeals court.

The family’s attorney, Rich Raiders, said Friday that Sunoco has not yet started construction on the Gerharts’ land. No arrests have been made.

Ellen Gerhart and her daughter, Elise Gerhart, have been spearheading the protest. Ellen Gerhart was arrested last year after getting in the way of tree-cutting crews on the site, but charges were later dropped.

“We’re seriously looking at going to jail,” Elise Gerhart told StateImpact Pennsylvania. “I’m not the type of person who lets injustice go unchallenged, and neither is my mother. What we’re doing makes (Sunoco) show their true face.”

The company said Friday that it had “no other options” but to go to court to enforce its right of way.

“We hope it will not be necessary for law enforcement to take any action once construction begins,” said Jeff Shields, spokesman for Energy Transfer Partners, which merged with Sunoco Logistics last week. “We will continue to conduct ourselves according to the law at all times and we fully expect those who oppose the project to do so peacefully and in compliance with the law.”

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