by Claire Bernish
Brookwood, AL — A Brookwood, Alabama, couple is facing a fight all too familiar to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota, after a Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Deputy served them a restraining order prohibiting them from entering parts of their own property — because Big Oil wants to drill there.
Kenneth and Loretta Kennedy have battled Black Warrior Methane Corporation for years in an attempt to preserve the integrity of their land and stop crews from drilling — but this injunction forbids the couple from interfering with the company’s operations — on their own property.
According to local CBS 42, which witnessed the Kennedys being served the injunction, this battle over the 163 acres they purchased 27 years ago stretches all the way back to 2011:
“Black Warrior Methane has been working on a drilling operation beneath the Kennedys’ land, which the couple says has ruined the property that stretches across more than 100 acres.”
That drilling, they say, has ruined the property — the Kennedys used to draw water from several wells, but Black Warrior Methane’s operations have contaminated that supply.
“For 25 years, you had good drinking water,” Kenneth Kennedy, jug of murky brown water in hand, told CBS 42, “and all of a sudden it starts smelling like rotten eggs.”
As local NBC affiliate WVTM reports,
“A few months ago, he says Black Warrior Methane Corp. approached him to drill on his land to remove dangerous methane gas 2,000 feet below in an untapped coal mine.
“If the gas is not removed, it could put miners at risk and potentially cause the mine to explode, according to Kennedy, who is a retired mine worker.”
Grasping that the company had plenty of funds at its disposal — and would likely try to undercut the worth of their land — the Kennedys attempted to negotiate a reasonable price for access.
When negotiations failed, Black Warrior Methane sued the Kennedys for rights to their property, arguing it “has and holds all of the rights of way, easements, waiver of damage and permission to conduct drilling operations, and reservation of mineral and mining rights.”
CBS 42 reports Black Warrior Methane claims in its complaint the couple doesn’t actually own the mineral rights to their property — rather, the company does and has for decades. But the Kennedys, having purchased the land nearly three decades ago, don’t understand the company’s logic.
“We bought the property. It’s paid for,” Loretta Kennedy asserted. “And then we don’t have a right to say who can come on it and who can’t? That don’t make sense to me at all.”
To the State of Alabama, however, the couple’s views their property is their own is a moot point — by law, any company possessing the mineral rights to someone’s land has permission to drill underground without the owner’s approval.
Although Mr. Kennedy reluctantly concedes the company might have the right to drill on his land, but firmly believes he should be compensated accordingly.
Black Warrior Methane says in its complaint, according to CBS 42, an effort was made to pay the Kennedys.
This battle over who owns the land, who has the right to pillage it for resources, and who should be responsible if drinking water is contaminated, has come into sharp focus over the past year — particularly under the lens of treaty rights in the Standing Rock Sioux’ battle in North Dakota.
What the Kennedys face might be a microcosm of that fight, but Big Oil has surreptitiously used the U.S. government’s eminent domain to seize land rights under the guise of critical energy infrastructure — despite that intentions to export extracted and piped oil for profit would have nothing to do with breaking America of its dependence on foreign supply.
Loretta Kennedy summarized the sentiments of those fighting the oil and gas industry, asking,
“If I don’t want them here, why are they here?”
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