NICHOLSON TWP. -- The Headley and Bezjak families say are regretting their decisions to allow a new natural gas pipeline to cross their properties.
David Headley and his wife, Diane, own a 115-acre farm on Volick Road. They sold the right-of-way for an existing gas line, but they hadn't bargained for another gas line that is planned for their property. When the pipeline's pathway poised to cross Georges Creek, Headley contacted the state Department of Environmental protection after drilling left a bentonite spill.
Joe Bezjak of Smithfield-New Geneva Road said his herd of about 180 head of black Angus cattle was harmed after gas drillers tore down a fence that separated the two herds. Without the fence, the cattle inter-breeded.
"That ruined the herd -- more than 40 years worth of work down the drain," Bezjak said. "They practically ruined my entire breeding stock."
The pipeline is owned and operated by Williams Laurel Mountain Midstream, which has its regional headquarters in Moon Township and its corporate headquarters in Tulsa, Okla.
The new pipeline's fate is far from certain.
The Headleys and Bezjaks have attempted to prohibit the company from laying the pipeline across their property. Both men locked their gates and tried to defend their property by brandishing unloaded rifles.
State police put a stop to the tactic and pipeline work continued.
Headley said he has taken legal steps to prevent the company from placing a 16-inch gas line on his property but come up short.
Williams spokesman Scott Carney said he is familiar with the Headleys' case. he said the company works to maintain its contractual relationships.
“Williams tries to work very hard amicable positive relationships,” he said. “We try to go above and beyond to address their needs with regard to our contracts. We work very hard to make sure they are positive relationships. We will continue to work with Mr. Headley to address any concerns that he may have within the scope of our existing contractual agreement.”
Bezjak's case is percolating up through the Fayette County Court system. He claims the company promised to replace the fence after it placed the new gas line on his property. Bezjak said he had to fix the fence, but it was too late -- the cattle had intermingled.
The company eventually put up a temporary fence after being ordered by the court to do so. The court ordered the company to repair the original fence it had damaged.
"If I hadn't gone to court, nothing would have happened," he said. "Sure, they fixed the fence but my cattle aren't the same."
Bezjak said he signed over a right-of-way after the company promised him it would replace the fence.
"They promised, but they came back and nothing happened," he said. "I don't understand how they get away with this stuff."