Rural landowner describes years-long, informal dispute with coal company

Local News

Clyde Eisenbeis, who owns 160 acres of land north of Beulah, says his farmland has been damaged by North American Coal.

“To my surprise they had been dumping lots of pond water into the creek, which goes right through the middle of that farmland,” Eisenbeis said.

Eisenbeis claims the coal company’s sediment pond overflowed onto his family’s property, which resulted in damaged crops.

“That particular creek never had water in it. I’ve never seen water in that creek,” Eisenbeis said.

Another landowner in the area, who wishes to remain anonymous, says there is still flooding today. She pointed to pools of water throughout her land that weren’t there before.

Both she and Eisenbeis say that as a result, it’s difficult to cut hay, retain renters who want to use the farmland and grow new crops in certain areas that have been damaged.

“One person that was going to rent the land didn’t want to because he couldn’t cross the farmland,” Eisenbeis said.

He says he’s tried to address the problem with the Public Service Commission over the past several years but isn’t happy with the response. The PSC conducted a review, which included a response from The Coteau Properties Company, a subsidiary of the North American Coal Corporation.

Coteau Properties said “erosion and flooding occurred in the subject field long before mining” and “mining operations were never the source or cause of erosion in Eisenbeis’s field,” among other statements in their letter.

David Straley at Coteau Properties says the company is completely compliant with laws and regulations, and that they are happy to go through the formal process with the Public Service Commission should Eisenbeis file a formal complaint.

“They just assume everything they said was correct and they made the decision that ‘hey it’s not coal mining related,'” Eisenbeis said.

Eisenbeis adds that he thinks it violates North Dakota century code that says adjacent land incidental to mining is relevant, and a permit is required before any land disturbance.

“Surface coal mining operations means: … The areas upon which such activities occur or where such activities disturb the natural land surface. Such areas shall also include any adjacent land the use of which is incidental to any such activities” – “NDCC (North Dakota Century Code) 38-14.1-02 (35 b)

“Bottom line is, is it legal for a government agency, such as the Public Service Commissioners to ignore ND laws, these laws that protect people and protect their land?” Eisenbeis asked.

The PSC says a formal complaint is needed to move forward, so both parties can present their cases to the Commission.

Eisenbeis says that process would be difficult and expensive to go through.

So for now, the nearly decade-old dispute is at a standstill.

“It’s gotta be close to thousands of hours put in over a span of ten years now in the time spent trying to have them fix a problem,” Eisenbeis said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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