This article discusses how Sunoco had a retired schoolteacher arrested for fighting against their taking her land through eminent domain. The charge listed against her was a low-level contempt charge, but her case could also implicate much larger questions about property rights and eminent domain, questions that boil down to this: What can you do on your own land after a private company seizes a slice using eminent domain?
On Tuesday, July 26, Sunoco Pipeline L.P. filed paperwork with a Pennsylvania court claiming that retired special education teacher Ellen Gerhart, 63, had violated an injunction. Three days later, Gerhart was arrested and jailed.
After being held on $25,000 bail for a week, Ellen Gerhart was on Friday, August 3 sentenced to two to six months by Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas Judge George Zanic.*
Sunoco Pipeline obtained a right of way through the Gerharts’ land using the controversial legal doctrine of eminent domain, which allows private companies to seize land people refuse to sell that’s in the planned path of a pipeline project.
In the complaint that led to her jailing, Sunoco claimed Gerhart interfered with construction by, among other things, luring mountain lions and bears onto her property.