Anti-Fracking Protester Fights Injunction Preventing Her From Tresspassing Onto Private Lands

In a heated battle concerning land rights of lessees and property owners to be free of tresspassers versus First Amendment rights of protestors, the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas heard arguments as to whether to modify an existing injunction against a Pennsylvania resident from travelling onto privately owned and leased land.   The resident is a vocal opponent of hydraulic fracturing and had sought to have the injunction lifted or modified.  She had reportedly given tours of drilling sites and piplines to anti-fracking activists, including celebreties.   The tours, according to the natural gas company, involved trespass to lands owned by local residents (e.g., farmers and others) and leased to natural gas companies.   According to at least one report, the tours brought as many as 50 people onto privately owned land where activities, such as truck-hauling and flaring, were occurring at the time.  The natural gas company essentially seeks to bar the activist from entering all properties owned by the company (i.e., to enforce property rights against trespass), as well as leased lands. According to the natural gas company,

The focus has been on our active work sites.  The incidents were escalating and the amount of people she was bringing and putting in harm’s way was increasing. … We had to take an action. We had asked her in the past to not trespass. She did not listen.

The current order prohibits the activist from entering property “owned and/or leased” by the natural gas company.   According to numerous reports taken from the hearing (here, here and here), Judge Seamans may not lift the injunction or he may modify it to make it clearer as to the exact area(s) where the activist may and may not travel.

The activist participated in a post-hearing conference wherein she reportedly confirmed that, regardless of the Judge’s ruling, she was willing to go to jail to make her point.  The activist is represented by the ACLU whch argues that the injunction violates the activists’ free speech rights.   The activist, through counsel, apparently claims that a property owner or lessee seeking to prevent against tresspass where work is being conducted is an “overreach.”  A trial is scheduled for May 1.




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