Enable loses Appeals Court fight over Caddo County trespassing claim

A several-year long fight over trespassing claims leveled against Enable Oklahoma Intrastate Transmission company by tribal owners in western Oklahoma has resulted in another loss for the company.

The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Enable’s appeal of an Oklahoma City Federal Judge’s ruling in a fight that started in 2002 when Enable was previously known as Enogex Inc.

Tribal land owners in Caddo County withheld their consent to a right-of-way application by Enogex for an easement totaling 0.73 acres of land. The entire amount of land was known as the Kiowa Allotment #84.  In 1980, the Bureau of Indian Affairs granted a 25-foot wide easement to Producer’s Gas Company for $1,925 to install and maintain a 20-foot natural gas pipeline for 20 years.

In 2002, Enogex wrote to the BIA asking to to acquire a new 20-year easement for $3,080 over the same property. But some landowners wouldn’t give approval. The BIA ruled in 2008 that the landowners had to approve the new easement but the landowners challenged the decision to the BIA Regional Director.

In 2010, the Regional Director ruled against the BIA Superintendent who had made the 2008 decision. In 2015, Enogex’s successor, Enable filed suit. Eventually the U.S. joined the tribal landowners who argued they had sovereign immunity and a judge agreed.

The Judge also awarded costs and attorney fees to the landowners. But Enable appealed the decision, arguing the costs were too high because the landowners had obtained legal representation from East Coast attorneys.

The Denver Federal Appeals court sided with the district judge who determined the landowners could not hire counsel and could not locate an attorney in Oklahoma with expertise in Indian law.

“We see no clear error in this case and we cannot say the district court abused its discretion in awarding the fees it did here,” ruled a three-judge panel in Denver. The case was CV-01250-M.

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