Vera Scroggins has done all she could to grab attention for her trespassing onto others’ properties hoping to turn it into a free speech issue but the judge isn’t buying.
Every time we turn around, Vera Scroggins is milking more attention from what we can now accurately refer to as “Trespassgate” given all the media hyperbole surrounding it. Yesterday, for example, the Wall Street Journal ran with the headline “Judge eases ruling on Pa. anti-fracking activist” followed by the suggestion she had won a release from restrictions that kept her from shopping. Her attorneys have also been crowing that she somehow prevailed. Losers who declare victory are certainly common these days, but this is a stretch too far.
We reported earlier on the hearing that took place last Monday and, in a post yesterday, noted the judge in the case had continued to impose an injunction on Scroggins, referring readers to the Montrose Independent’s excellent coverage for the details. It was clear from the beginning of that hearing that any restrictions on Vera Scroggins being able to shop and visit her doctor were ginned up phony claims intended to market her as a martyr. The public record is clear she had been offered, more than two months earlier, clarifications that would have alleviated any such concerns had they been real, but she wanted the issue. All Cabot ever wanted was to stop her from repeatedly doing this:
The injunction issued last week makes it crystal clear the judge saw through Vera Scroggins charade and there’s no better way to illustrate than to simply publish the Opinion and Order and let his words speak for themselves, although we have highlighted some parts:
Plaintiff, Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation (Cabot), has sought a preliminary injunction against Defendant, Vera Scroggins.
Cabot is the leaseholder of a number of oil and gas leases in Susquehanna County. For some time now, Cabot and/or its wholly owned subsidiary, GasSearch Drilling Services Corp. (GDS), have engaged in drilling wells for natural gas production in Susquehanna County, said activities having been permitted by the proper agencies of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
During the course of well pad preparation, drilling, fracking and production activities of the Plaintiffs, Cabot and GDS, Defendant, Veta Scroggins, has engaged in activities which generally fall under the generic term of trespassing upon the various well sites of Cabot and GDS causing legitimate concerns for the safety of various workers upon the well sites and access roads leading to and from the well sites.
Additionally, Cabot and GDS have legitimate concerns for the safety of Defendant Vera Scroggins who has entered, without permission from Cabot and/or GDS, onto the premises controlled by them with no required protective clothing.
Further, Defendant Scroggins’ “trespassing” activities further concern Cabot and GDS as impinging upon their ability to perform their permitted activities.
Upon the representation of her legal counsel, Defendant Scroggins has been granted in forma pauperis status, he claiming she is indigent and unable to pay for filing fees and transcripts fees, etc.
We note there are six essential prerequisites to the granting of preliminary injunctive relief. Warehime v. Warehime, 580 PA 201, 860 A2d 41 (2004).
We find the preliminary injunction is necessary to prevent immediate and irreparable harm that cannot be adequately compensated by damages. We note that because of the nature of well site preparation and drilling, heavy machinery is involved. Workers must always be aware for their own personal safety as well as the safety of others upon the site upon which they are working. A common trespasser would only add to the dangers upon the work site which have a distinct probability in causing injury and/or death to workers and others upon the well sites, including trespassers.
We further note, as we have stated, that Defendant Scroggins claims to be indigent. Hence, there could be no reasonable expectation of her adequately compensating Cabot, GDS and/or workers or their families for harm for which she may have been a legal cause.
Greater injury would result from refusing an injunction than granting it. Defendant Scroggins, by our injunction, will still have plenty of geographical space in which to protest. Other interested parties, not named and not being required by this court to be named, are landholders who have entered into leases now held by Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation. They benefit by this limited injunction in not having their possible liability increased by Defendant Scroggins’ unconsented to intrusion upon their lands.
The preliminary injunction restores the parties, Cabot and Vera Scroggins, to their status immediately prior to the alleged wrongful conduct of Defendant Scroggins.
We find the activity to be restrained is actionable, it constituting entry upon Cabot’s owned realty without permission and also upon well pads and access roads under Cabot’s control without permission. Such unpermitted entry is generally construed as trespass upon others’ premises.
The wrongful conduct of unpermitted entry by Defendant Scroggins is manifest – well documented. As such, we find that Cabot is likely to prevail on the merits of this case.
The amended preliminary injunction is reasonably suited to abate Defendant Vera Scroggins’ offending activity, that is, her unlawful entry upon Cabot and/or GDS realty and her unlawful entry upon well pads and access roads controlled by Cabot and/or GDS.
The granting of the amended preliminary injunction will not adversely affect the public interest. To the contrary, workers upon Cabot’s/GDS’s well pads and access roads will have a safer workplace in that they will not have to look out for the safety of Defendant Vera Scroggins as she will not be committing actions in the form of unlawful entry which generally constitute trespass. Vera Scroggins’ own safety will be less compromised and in peril if she is not on these well pads and access roads upon which heavy machinery is operating. Landowners who have leases with Cabot will better have their private property rights maintained if the amended preliminary injunction is granted. Lastly, the motoring public traveling in the areas of the Cabot/GDS well pads and access roads will be safer if Defendant Scroggins is not obstructing the access roads and/or public roads in the area.
NOW TO WIT, this 27th day of March, 2014, after argument held, in order to ensure the safety of the employees of Plaintiff, Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation, the employees of its subsidiary, GasSearch Drilling Corp. (GDS), other persons permitted upon any premises owned by the Plaintiff, Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation or GDS, and the safety of Defendant, Vera Scroggins, it is ordered that Defendant Vera Scroggins is restrained, enjoined and prohibited from entering, or causing others to enter, upon premises presently and in the future owned by Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation and/or GasSearch Drilling Services Corp. (GDS), a wholly owned subsidiary of Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation, the addresses of which are attached hereto as Exhibit A. Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation and GDS shall be responsible for keeping a like list current by sending changes, if any, to her legal counsel of record who shall pass such changes onto Defendant, Vera Scroggins.
Defendant, Vera Scroggins, is further restrained, enjoined and prohibited from entering upon well pads in Susquehanna County on which Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation and/or GDS are conducting any surface operations whatsoever or is/are maintaining a well in production. Operations include but are not limited to well pad construction, drilling and related operations, completion operations and well pad locations with active well(s) or production machinery or facilities thereon. Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation and/or GDS shall keep such well pad locations marked by signage at their access roads’ entrances thereto indicating “No Trespassing” and signs restricting access to authorized personnel only.
It is further Ordered that Defendant Vera Scroggins is restrained, enjoined and prohibited from entering upon any access roads to well pads in operation or production, maintained, and/or reclaimed by Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation and/or GDS, upon the well pad(s) and within one hundred (100′) feet of such well pad(s). Defendant Vera Scroggins is not by virtue of this provision prohibited from traveling upon public roads but shall not stop or remain present upon the public highway and/or rights-of-way adjacent thereto within one hundred feet (100′) on each side of the entry to access roads owned, leased and/or maintained by Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation and/or GDS for access to its well pads in operation and/or production activities except for bona fide emergencies. Defendant, Vera Scroggins, shall not obstruct traffic entering and/or leaving by said access roads. We further note that certain prohibitions exist as to parking or leaving unattended vehicles upon private property as stated at 75 Pa.C.S.A.§3353(a) or (b)(l). Additionally, we note that unattended vehicles obstructing traffic may be removed or caused to be removed as stated at 75 Pa.C.S.A.§3352(b).
It is further ordered that Defendant, Vera Scroggins, is restrained, enjoined, and prohibited from coming in physical contact with Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation and/or GDS owned equipment, vehicles or structures in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania.
Defendant Vera Scroggins is restrained, enjoined and prohibited from causing others to engage in activities prohibited by this order, as it relates to her.
This Modified Preliminary Injunction shall go into effect immediately upon issuance, and supercedes a previous injunction entered in this case on October 17, 2013, and continued on October 21, 2013.
Violation of this Order may subject the alleged violator to possible civil contempt proceedings, and, if found to be in willful civil contempt, to be subject to possible fines, assessment of attorney fees, and/or incarceration in a proper case.
BY THE COURT,
KENNETH W. SEAMANS, P.J.
If there be any victory for Vera Scroggins in this, it is well-hidden. Rather, the Opinion and Order make it explicitly clear there was overwhelming evidence she has trespassed, that substantial harm could result from that trespassing and that it will stop because it must. It’s as simple as that when all the hype is cast aside.