IN YOUR CORNER: Rancher claims ruptured pipe killed cows and chance for hay crop

In Your Corner

An Oklahoma cattle rancher is calling out an oil and gas company after he says a pipeline leak led to tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

Robert Brian’s ranch has been a labor of love for nearly 30 years.

“I just raise dogs, chicken, kids,” he said. “Try to mind my own business.”

His true calling has been cattle, with a business that has grown year after year.

But back in January, a pregnant cow’s death caused quite a commotion.

“I found a dead cow. Young cow,” said Robert. “I couldn’t figure out what killed her, then I smelled some gas.”

An Energy Transfer Partners gas pipeline had ruptured beneath his land.

Robert says the runoff was running into his cattle’s water supply.

“I called Energy Transfer, told them they had a spill,” he said. “[Energy Transfer] shut the pipeline down.”

What followed was months of cleanup by Energy Transfer, with the area initially cordoned off with temporary fencing.

But Robert says that fencing fell down, and soon after a second cow died. He was then instructed to move his cows to another part of his land.

The work continued for months, and he says the damage goes beyond just his field.

“My cows were in the other pasture. And they grazed that down, now I can’t cut it for hay,” said Robert. “Basically they deprived me of half my business for six months.”

Robert says this is not the first leak with this pipe, finding gas spewing from the ground in the same area back in 2014.

After two spills, he’s had enough.

“The land, the water, the air are sacred,” added Robert. “Someone comes along and shows disrespect and pollutes that, you have to make the polluters pay.”

In a back and forth with Energy Transfer Partners, a spokesman told Robert the company would be “less than excited” to pay for damages.

They went on to say the pipeline leak was “limited, fully studied, and remediated,” which appears to be true.

“They did what they were supposed to. Brought fresh dirt in here, covered it all up,” said Robert. “Then they planted some seed, I planted some seed too.”

Though it’s near impossible to prove how two otherwise healthy, pregnant cows died, Robert points out both cows died a stone’s throw away from the spill.

With the loss of cows and pasture use, Robert estimates his damage is just north of $40,000.

“If you find somebody that disrespects your land, pollutes your creek or kills your cow,” said Robert. “Even if you’re a little guy like me, you need to take and make them pay.”

Energy Transfer Partners did not answer KFOR’s request for comment, claiming such situations with land owners are private matters.

We do know the spill was properly reported and documented with state officials.

Robert has sent the company his damage estimates, and the two sides continue to communicate.

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