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Ohio Utica Shale

Pennsylvania farmer jailed over pipeline construction issues

By Bob Downing Published: December 18, 2012

From the Marcellus Effect blog:


 

Last Friday a Pennsylvania farmer was tossed in jail for telling pipeline workers to cease illegally dumping sulfur water on his fields.
 
Yup, you heard that right.
 
When 73-year-old Joe Bezjak, of Nicolson Township in Fayette County, PA discovered contractors with Laurel Mountain Midstream pumping sulfur water onto his property, he did what any right-thinking farmer would do: he asked them to stop. And that landed him in the pokey over the weekend.
 
The irony: the gas pipeline employees were working on Bezjak’s farm against the court’s direction. They, however, got a “get out of jail free” card.
 
From interviews with the press, it seems that last spring Bezjak signed a contract with Laurel Mountain Midstream of Williams Companies LLC to allow them a right-of-way for a 16-inch gas pipeline through his 700-acre cattle farm. Bezjak raises Black Angus – about 200 head. At the time, the pipeline company agreed to work with him to ensure that the construction work did not interfere with his farming. A promise unfulfilled…
 
Bezjak and his neighbor discovered cut and broken fences, stray cattle and dead calves. They also discovered a Bentonite spill in a local creek, and reported the violation to the PA Department of Environmental Protection.
 
A county judge ordered Laurel Mountain to replace fencing. But because Bezjak and his neighbor had tried to run the pipeline folk off their fields, he ordered the landowners to remain at least 50 feet away from the company’s right-of-way until the project is finished.
 
At the same time, PA state environmental inspectorshalted the project indefinitely, due to the contamination from the bentonite spill.
 
So, when Bezjak saw pipeline workers – who weren’t supposed to be on his land by DEP order – dumping pollution illegally, he did what any right-thinking person would do. He told them to stop. He told them to leave. And he was the one tossed in jail.
 
“I couldn’t stop myself,” he told the press. “I am not against drilling but I do believe in being a good steward of the land.”

 

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