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Quarry plan will require industry to compromise

August 06, 1999

The West Virginia rules governing surface mining haven't been updated since 1971 and Rocky Parsons, assistant chief of the state's Office of Mining and Reclamation, wants to change that. We wish him luck, because his proposal will add substantial costs to quarry operations.

The rules are of interest in the Eastern Panhandle because of the early 1990s proposal by the Francis O. Day Co. to build a quarry that would have straddled the boundary between Berkeley and Jefferson counties. That plan was defeated in 1994, but there's still concern that another firm may come forward with a similar proposal, possibly jeopardizing the development of high-tech facilities nearby.

Parsons' rules would require those who mine limestone, sandstone and sand to make sure that the land that remains after quarrying operations are done has stable ground, proper drainage and can be replanted with trees and grass.

Other operations, which mine for clay and gravel, would have to restore sites to their pre-quarry state, which could be even more expensive.

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Parsons' proposed rules will be presented to an interim legislative rulemaking committee later this month. If that panel approves, then they'll go to the West Virginia Legislature during the 2000 session.

Two things this proposal does not do is make quarry operations subject to local zoning laws or require operators to post bonds to guarantee they'll engage in clean-ups after mining operations are complete.

Zoning, in our view, is the best way to control quarry operations, because the zoning ordinance and the accompanying maps are drawn up only after public hearings, giving property owners and affected neighbors a voice in the matter.

Zoning would also dictate setbacks and other protections for groundwater resources not available now. It would be a hard sell, but perhaps making the effort to add zoning restrictions will lead quarry operators to accept a stronger bill than they would otherwise. As Del. Vicki Douglas, D-Berkeley, said this week, everybody's got to give up something to get something.

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