Judge rules family must leave property for pipeline construction
HUNTINGDON -- A Huntingdon County judge ruled this week that a family camped out on its own property has to vacate the premises to allow construction to continue for the Mariner East 2 Pipeline.
Ellen Gerheart and her husband have owned the property that is now partially taken over for construction of the pipeline for more than three decades.
"When we bought it, it was a house with 48 acres, and we just fell in love with it," she said.
The Gerhearts, who graduated from Penn State, wanted to stay in Central Pennsylvania and live on a rural piece of land.
"We can wake up in the morning and hear the birds right away. We can fall asleep listening to the crickets and the frogs. You look out the front window and you might have a herd of deer in the front yard or a flock of turkeys," Gerheart said.
Claiming eminent domain, Sunoco Logistics and Energy Transfer Partners have been legally permitted to work on the property, Gerheart said, cutting down trees and destroying wetlands in the process.
"To force that reality on people just feels very, very wrong," Ellen's daughter, Elise Gerheart, said in April.
For the last two years, the Gerheart family and other activists have camped out on the property near the construction, sitting in trees and tents.
Elise said Sunoco cuts the trees even as they hit the trees she and the other protesters occupy.
Ellen, her daughter and the other protesters have been arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for trying to stop the construction on the Gerhearts' property, but the charges were later dropped.
This week, a judge ruled that all of them must leave.
Ellen Gerheart said that they haven't been served with the order yet, and they were never notified that the judge approved the injunction.
No matter what happens, she said she won't let any corporation push her and her family out of their home.
"We raised both of our daughters here. We've lived here more than 30 years," she said. We could take the (settlement) money and buy a house somewhere else, but that doesn't stop what they're doing. That wouldn't prevent Sunoco from tearing up the ground and putting these pipes in for no reason other than to make a profit, and, it's like with any other bully, you have to stand up and tell them no. That's what we're doing, and we're going to continue to do that."
Sunoco representatives did not answer questions Thursday, but later released a statement that said,
"Today’s ruling is further validation for the Mariner East 2 pipeline project,” said Kurt Knaus, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance. “The public has had countless opportunities to provide input about the project over the past three and a half years. That includes opponents. Regulators have spoken and so have the courts, repeatedly. It’s time to build this project without further delay. Judge (George) Zanic’s ruling today is a positive step toward that end.”