Don’t lose what means the most to you; ask questions before mining

HOLBROOK, Pa. — On a back road in Greene County, Pa., is a farm that the owners say will never be the same again.

Third generation

Cindy and Art Main raise beef cattle on their 200-plus acres in Holbrook, Pa. Art is the third generation to live on the farm.

The beef operation is in the middle of a changing landscape. Long wall mining went through the farm and the coal was removed in 2010. And on one side of the farm is a gas line installed by Dominion Transmission Inc. and on another side is a line under construction by Equitable (EQT Corp.).

But the real trouble began three years ago, said Cindy Main, when Consol Energy installed underground air shafts on the farm. Since then, the family farm has not been the same for the Mains.

Eventually, two more air shafts were constructed and panels went through the land.

Like many landowners, they understood that Consol owned the vein of coal beneath their farm and they needed to get it. In 2009, the Mains signed a lease that gave them one-eighth of the profits.

But now, the Mains claim the land is not the same and their home is ruined. The Mains say the front of the house dropped 11 inches and the back dropped 10 inches. In addition, they claim the mining has caused their home to move off the side of the hill.

Consol owns the vein of coal that goes through the Mains’ farm and is part of the Blacksville Mine #2. They have offered the Mains $180,000 to settle on their claims that their house was ruined.

“They own the coal. They are simply doing what they have to do, but it can ruin a farmer’s life,” Cindy said.

What they’re concerned about is the impacts left behind and the lessons learned.

Ask questions

Art and Cindy agree that even though they thought they asked all of the questions necessary, it wasn’t enough and they should have asked more. They added that they should have inquired about water rights and damages.

One issue is the damage to their two primary hay fields. Art said the land is constantly flooding and it’s been a problem for hay production and calf production. The hayfields that received the most damage were the ones the Mains depended on for hay for the winter months.

“They (Consol) come in and pacify you, but they don’t tell you everything that is going to happen or could happen. They give false promises.” said Cindy.

The couple is currently using eight water buffalo (water trailers) on their farm and has bottled water delivered every week. There is one water buffalo for the home and seven are for cattle production.

“They told us they would make us whole again. They made it sound so good. This farm will never the same again,” said Art.

The Mains participated in a full pre-mine inspection on the farm and went as far as to have veterinary inspections on their 60 head of cattle, complete with photographs to document the condition of the cattle.

A post mine inspection of the property is planned for early May.

Story Continues Below Photos

CONSOL

Farm and Dairy contacted Consol was received this emailed response from Media Relations Director Lynn Seay:

“CONSOL Energy has been working with Mr. and Mrs. Main since December 2010 to finalize mitigation measures for structures and surface acreage, as well as interim repairs throughout last year since mining, which took place beneath the property in early April 2011 by Blacksville #2 Panel 14W LW.

“Work performed on the property has included provisions made for temporary farm work structures, alternate pasture and hay supplies, temporary water and gas supplies, household storage, interim surface repairs, and onsite temporary housing due to farming needs.   

“Please note that the property was also impacted by a 30-inch Dominion (Dominion Transmission Inc.) pipeline, which required Dominion’s mitigation during mining, and the Mains also contracted with Equitable for similar pipeline activity.”

Consol also said the Blockhouse Run tributary also runs through the property and a permit is currently pending so that stream repairs can get under way.

Choices?

The couple said they did sign the agreements Consol provided before the work began, but they also feel they didn’t have much choice in the matter. They claim the landman told them he couldn’t promise the offers given by the company would be the same if they didn’t sign the papers.

“They (Consol) only tell you what you need to know to exist. They should be made to give full disclosure,” said Cindy.

About the Author

Kristy Foster Seachrist lives in Columbiana County raising sheep and horses. She earned her degree from Youngstown State University and has worked in both print and broadcast journalism. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/fosterk96. More Stories by Kristy Foster Seachrist

3 Comments

  1. Shopper says:

    As a farmer in a current hotbed of horizontal well-drilling in central WV, I am more interested in collateral damage and contamination. What protection does the farm or school next door have when they haven’t signed any such agreement or received any such recompense for being tunneled under, polluted, or disheveled. How do the neighbors of the Mains cope?

    • Cindy Main says:

      Shopper: Not familiar with the issues confronting the horizontal drilling ,grab hold of your hat and conact all you can.DEP is a good place to start.And the Soil conservation and whoever else you can think of.Legislators have pushed thru bills to cover thier own investments and you can well imagine who they are. These are multi million $ comapnies not worried in the least about your land or life.I am all about America becoming independent from foreign oil.But there has to be SOME respect for our lives and who the big companies are destroying.
      As far as coal,Did everybody know that DEP can represent you as long as you DO NOT sign that agreement coal companies want you to sign? If you do sign,DEP cannot represent you.Thats because Half of thier salary is paid by the coal company. If you dont sign that agreement,DEP can represent you in court if issues arent addressed.And we all know that the coal company only addresses what will keep them out of hot water and only that.
      As to water rights? A new revised agreement has the coal company persuing springs and wells to the “best”? of thier ability to recapture.The new agreement has the land owner recieving compensation if all measures are tried and fail,fair market value per acre affected and the coal company is gone. So on a farm that relies on water to maintain cattle,we either are out of business or have to have water delivered. In all fairness,the coal company drills augmentation wells,which they compensate you for allowing them to come on your property.When the streams go dry the aug wells suppliment and fill the streams.That is ,IF they produce enough.And damages are taxable now,did you know that? So we all know we have to pay taxes.On something we didnt create or produce?!
      Another whole issue is long term stress and its impact on health.We personally have to deal with the coal company until the year 2016 and beyond.The agreement allows for so many months aferward for subsidence to impact the land and area.(The water table is guaranteed to drop between 10 to 25 ft when a panel goes thru.)Daily checks to make sure the doors and windows open while a panel passes under the house eliminates any privacy.I believe people have a right to know what thier life will be like when a company destroys a life.Not to mention the filth and grime the increased truck traffic is to a rural community.We started into this with concern over the cattle and the influence all this had on them.They have held up better than us.

      • Shopper says:

        Cindy: I truly empathize with your situation. It must be just awful to rely on qualifiers such as “to the best of our ability” when you sign an agreement for any entity’s access to your property and expect to be protected. And I appreciate the info about the DEP only being of value as an ally if you haven’t signed away your rights. My problem is even trickier. I own the land but the mineral rights are someone else’s. And horizontal drilling threatens to invade me from next door and from underneath without even my permission for access or promised protection. The explosions, pollution, traffic congestion, and feared loss of ground water are totally outside my control. And I, like many neighbors of mining operations, will suffer the consequences none the less. How has all of this underground activity affected your neighbors?

Leave a Comment

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.

eNewsletter

Get our Top Stories in Your Inbox

Recent News