Jeremy Engelking, the Superior man arrested for trespassing on his own property last year, was back in court Monday as his tangle with Enbridge Energy Partners continues.
This time, his parents, Barbara and Gerald Engelking, were pulled into the fray.
The Engelkings have been vocal opponents of Enbridge's efforts to install a pipeline across 20 acres of land they own in Superior.
In December of last year, Jeremy Engelking confronted pipeline workers, telling them that they were trespassing and had no right to be on his property. The exchange ended with his arrest for allegedly trespassing on a construction site and disorderly conduct. Those charges were subsequently dropped.
Enbridge completed its installation of pipe across the Engelkings' property and now plans to restore the property to its original condition by regrading dirt and planting grass over the pipeline corridor, as required by the state of Wisconsin.
But Jeremy Engelking had posted a "No trespassing for any purpose" sign on his property and put up some snow fencing.
"To avoid any legal issues, we won't go in there until a judge says we can," said Joe Mihalek, an attorney for Enbridge, before Monday's court hearing.
The company got the go-ahead it sought later that afternoon, when Judge George Glonek issued a temporary injunction ordering the Engelkings to grant Enbridge access to their property.
Jeremy Engelking said the pipeline construction cut about a 100-foot-wide and 1,000-foot-long swath through his family's property.
Micah Harris, a right-of-way supervisor for Enbridge, estimated the restoration work on the Engelkings' land would take about four days to complete, weather permitting, and would require follow-up visits to ensure that vegetation takes hold and erosion issues do not develop.
"Heaven knows what the state will do if Enbridge doesn't comply with its permit, but it has the ability to assess fines and withhold operating permits," Mihalek said.
"We can't risk having the operating permits lost for a multi-billion-dollar project just because of one property owner's peculiar interpretation of an easement agreement," said Mihalek, as he made his case for an injunction.
Richard Gondik, the Engelkings' attorney, argued that Enbridge had failed to demonstrate that irreparable harm would result if its request for a temporary injunction was denied. He said the injunction was an effort by Enbridge representatives to "bulletproof themselves from future trespass charges."
Before granting an injunction, Judge Glonek noted that delaying restoration work could result in increased erosion and environmental harm.
In addition to seeking a temporary injunction, Enbridge also has sued the Engelkings for breach of contract, citing a permanent easement that was granted across their land by a prior landowner in 1949. That agreement contained a provision allowing for the future construction of additional lines using the same pipeline corridor, so long as compensation was provided.
The Engelking family has refused Enbridge's requests to grant it additional right-of-way or temporary work space agreements in recent years. Gerald Engelking tore up a $15,000 check the company sent him in 2003 after installing a previous pipeline against his wishes. The latest pipeline is the third that has been installed across his property since he acquired it in 1976.
If Enbridge's suit proves successful, it could put the Engelkings on the hook for the costs of attorneys and delays. These expenses would be determined by the court, and Mihalek declined to venture an estimate of what the damages might total.
For his part, Jeremy Engelking said he has no regrets about challenging Enbridge.
"I probably would do the same thing again. You need to stand up for yourself," he said.
Gondik explained that while Enbridge was successful in its request for a temporary injunction Monday, the underlying case still remains alive and unresolved.
"What happened today colors our odds moving forward, but it's not a fatal blow by any means," he said.