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