Afternoon, Spider Rock © Robert Sommers 2023

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Right to say no.

I rarely agree with libertarians (who tend to be conservative wolves in sheep's clothing nowadays) but this one is a doozy. A Superior, Wisconsin man's treatment by the authorities definitely causes one's eyebrow to raise. I have seen it referenced on several right wing sites in the past two days and I am with them on this one.

In Douglas County, 27 year old Jeremy Engelking has been arrested and threatened with a taser for trespassing on his own property. He is also facing new charges of disorderly conduct. Engelking and his father are embroiled in a dispute with the Enbridge Energy Partners L.P. over an easement that runs across their property. Enbridge is one of the largest energy companies in the world and it is building a pipeline across Wisconsin.

The story unfolds thusly: Jeremy goes out deer hunting and parks his atv in front of some of Enbridge's heavy equipment. The Sheriff, Sergeant Robert Smith, drives up and chides Engelking that he is “trying to stop a multi-million-dollar project.” When the young man tells Smith that he is on his own property, he is told to "Get down on the ground now! And he said that I was being arrested for trespassing,” Engelking said. When Engelking protested, pointing out that he was on his own property, he said the officer told him: “It doesn’t matter. You’re going to jail. You can tell it to a judge tomorrow.”

Enbridge spokesman says that the company has worked with approximately 1,500 landowners as part of the pipeline project.

“We recognize construction is an inconvenience to people; people want access to their land,” she said. “We strive to be respectful of that, to have a good working relationship.” The Engleking's say that the new proposed easement alters their property rights and won't cash the company check.

According to an article in the Superior Telegram, Jerry Engelking said that he refused to sign off on changes proposed to the original 1949 easement agreement across his property because he felt the revised document put too many restrictions on how he could use neighboring property in the future. That first easement said any future pipes laid along the same route would be predicated on additional payments being made to affected property owners.

According to court documents from the Sept. 25 hearing, Enbridge sent a $15,000 check to Barbara and Gerald Engleking, and also tried to hand-deliver payments, but the couple refused to accept them. Engleking acknowledged that Enbridge repeatedly offered him money to sign a revised lease agreement. But to claim the money he would have had to broaden the scope of the existing easement across his property, so he turned the checks down.

When the latest pipeline project came along, the Engelkings again refused to modify the original 1949 right-of-way agreement.

This treatment of this family really burns me up. And the obsequious toadiness of Sergeant Smith. Too many cops think that they are there to serve property owners and large corporations. It happens in mill towns across the land on a daily basis. I think that too many cops see being poor as being criminal. With the gentrification and sprucing up of downtown San Diego, more and more of the homeless have been shunted out of the east village. Don't know what the police position is.  Enbridge seems to think that it is their god given right to do anything they please, not withstanding the fact that they are operating on other people's property.

I hope that a high powered attorney will take Douglas County, the sheriff and Enbridge Energy out to the woodshed and give them an ass whoopin.  If the language and tenets of the lease have in fact been changed, it seems that they are in their moral right to refuse to enter into a new agreement, no matter how inexpedient it is for Enbridge. Or the county can aquire the property the old fashioned way, through eminent domain.  Hope the kid can hang on.


Anonymous said...

You shouldn't be so positive about things of which you may have received too little information. There may have been an eminent domain decision in the matter which gets you so angry. California has an "immediate possession" law--so do many other states. For right-of-way situations the state or its delegatee can apply for an order giving it possession prior to final judgment upon deposit of estimated--its estimate--of compensation. Then the parties fight out the actual compensation to be paid in court.
The property owner has no right to obstruct the project until he gets his price.
In the case you cite--of which I have little knowledge as well--the original 1949 easement contemplated the expansion of use of the easement. The argument of the owner was that he wasn't getting the amount of money he wanted or--maybe more likely--he didn't want the use expanded. He didn't like the dominant tenement using the rights it owned in the easement.
Some day, if you wish, I will give you the citation of the case in which the property owner whose property was subject to a power line and communication easement--electric, telegraph and telephone, tried to stop the cable T.V. company from stringing an extra wire on the power pole--because the easment didn't say "television." What should have been the result of the controversy?
Don't let yourself get so excited. And don't necessarily blame the big guy--it may be in the right.


Blue Heron said...

Uncle Norm (my maternal uncle who was a city attorney in Los Angeles and an expert and professor on eminent domain),

Thanks for your take. How do you know that you have all of the requisite information? What if the new terms are not about compensation but are instead about an expansion or physical enlargement of the easement area? Why does the local government always seem to screw the little guy in these cases and is it their proper role to intercede for big corporations?

What if the defendant says, no thanks?

grumpy said...

Robert was always such an excitable boy...

NYSTAN said...

I am with you on this one....no need to be a libertarian or anything else.
I do not think you are excitable. Why are so many of your pals cynical?
Hell...it's Sunday. Why don't y'all go get a bagel and relax? I hope this guy gets his way and that lardass cop gets bitch slapped.

Anonymous said...

You take the money and shut up. That's the way it works. Or somebody could get hurt...

Unknown said...

What the hell the guy thinks he can go hunting on his own property. Take his gun away and burn down the church.

North County Film Club said...

I'd have more sympathy if he wasn't out shooting deer.

Blue Heron said...

I pulled this comment from Engelking off of a blog he responded to:

jeremy E. Superior, WI 12/04/2009 6:07 PM After reading comments I want say thank you and I want to clearify some things: Enbridge has not made 1 formal offer to me about the easement. The area where my 4-wheeler was parked and where I was located and arrested was the area a Precision Pipeline employee told me to go for “saftey reasons”. As a condition of the check offered by Enbridge they wanted for us to completely change the current restrictions and wording on the easement. I have the additional paperwork. The easement says Enbridge is required to pay money for each additional pipeline put on our property. It also states that the amount is to be paid is before they lay the pipe. The easement states if a payment is not mutually agreed upon what actions are required for the negotiations to move forward. Enbridge has known my parents were not happy with their offer for more than 2 years so they have had more than ample time to take legal action. They also did not pay for the pipeline installed in 2002 because they were requesting additional terms to the easement. As for the firearm. Yes I had one. I was getting done deer hunting (unit 1m in WI allows that), I was dressed in blaze orange and my gun was fully cased on the front of my 4-wheeler the entire time and never touched. If my gun was an issue at no time during the 30 minute conversation with Precision or Enbridge employees before the Sheriff’s department arrived was anything said to me about it. If it was an issue I’m sure the sheriffs department would not have just walked the 400 yards right out to me. They would have taken a more careful approach.

**during court today douglas county also issued me a disorderly conduct ticket in addition to the tresspassing charge. Under the charge is written: “while in a public place, did engage in otherwise disorderly conduct”. The ticket was written and signed today by the douglas county district attorney’s office.