The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma has ordered a natural gas pipeline operator to cease operations and remove the pipeline located on original Kiowa Indian lands Anadarko.
The ruling in Davilla v. Enable Midstream Partners,, L.P., issued at the end of March, found that Enable Midstream was continuing to trespass on the land and ordered the company to remove the pipeline within six months.
The plaintiffs are 38 enrolled members of the Comanche, Caddo, Apache, Cherokee and Kiowa Tribes of Oklahoma. Additionally, the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma has an interest in the land. The interests vary from nearly 30 percent to less than 9/10th of a percent.
“It’s very significant,” said plaintiffs’ lawyer David Smith.
David Klaassen, a spokesman for Enable, said the company doesn’t comment on active legal issues.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs approved an easement across the land in 1980 for Enable’s predecessor, Producer’s Gas Company, to construct and install a natural gas pipeline. The original easement expired in 2000, according to court documents. By 2002, the company had changed to Enogex, Inc., and had submitted a right-of-way offer to the BIA and the plaintiffs for another 20 years. The majority of the landowners rejected the offer.
In 2008, the BIA’s interim superintendent of the Anadarko Agency approved Enogex’s application to renew the easement for 20 years. The plaintiffs appealed the decision in 2010, and the BIA vacated the opinion
“The BIA determined that it did not have authority to approve the right-of-way without the consent of plaintiffs or their predecessors in interest and that the price offered by defendants was unreasonable,” according to court documents. “The BIA remanded the case for further negotiation and instructed that if approval of a right-of-way was not timely secured that Enogex should be directed to move the pipeline.”
A new right-of-way has not been granted and the natural gas pipeline continued to operate, according to the court documents. The plaintiffs filed a trespassing violation and sought preliminary and permanent injunction in November 2015.
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