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Mining opponents appeal W.Va. panel decision on permit

February 22, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Organizations opposed to a proposed shale quarry in southern Berkeley County have appealed a West Virginia Surface Mine Board decision affirming the state-issued permit for the operation.

Potomac Riverkeeper Inc. announced Tuesday that it filed a petition in Berkeley County Circuit Court seeking judicial review of the Surface Mine Board’s final order, which was issued Jan. 25.

Joining Potomac Riverkeeper in the court appeal are Washington Heritage Trail Inc. and Gerrardstown (W.Va.) Presbyterian Church.

The mining permit issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in January 2011 allows North Mountain Shale to mine shale in a 100-acre quarry site off Dominion Road near W.Va. 51 in Gerrardstown. The shale would be hauled to Continental Brick Co. in Martinsburg for brick manufacturing.

The petition asks the court to reverse the Surface Mine Board’s decision and remand the permit issued by the DEP on grounds that the company failed to disclose a sediment-control measure and that the state Historic Preservation Office’s consideration of historic, cultural and aesthetic impacts of the proposed quarry operation was inadequate.

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Potomac Riverkeeper, which said in a news release that the Surface Mine Board’s ruling last month was flawed, alleges the appellate board approved a permit that would not adequately control sediment discharge.

Opponents also asserted that the board’s ruling wrongly prohibited arguments challenging the adequacy of the DEP’s review of the impact of the quarry operations on the historical resources of the Gerrardstown community.

Jeanne Mozier, president of the Washington Heritage Trail, said the organization was disappointed that the Surface Mine Board refused to review the potential impacts on Gerrardstown’s scenic and historic values.

Mozier said that several state rulings have made it “very difficult” for the Washington Heritage Trail to carry out its mission of preserving and protecting the various attributes that allowed the trail to garner national designation.

The DEP has said that concerns about the quarry’s impact on historic resources were addressed by conditions attached to North Mountain’s permit, and the state Historic Preservation Office previously concluded that the operation would have “no adverse affect” on cultural resources.

The Surface Mine Board unanimously concluded that the five-year permit was properly issued by the DEP, but also modified it and added conditions to “minimize potential impacts” of the quarry.

The state Environmental Quality Board earlier this month also ruled in favor of the company’s project in a separate appeal concerning a pollution discharge permit issued for the proposed quarry.

The conditions include limiting the removal of shale to five truckloads from the permit area per working shift at Continental Brick Co., with a maximum of two shifts per day; allowing no more than two acres in the mining area to be disturbed in the first year of active mining; and reclamation of wooded areas by planting between 400 and 450 tree saplings per acre and planting of grasses to reclaim hayfield/pasture areas.

Shale extracted from a 41-acre area would done in 5-acre increments, with reclamation required to begin in a mined area before new areas are mined, under the order.

North Mountain Shale purchased 421 acres at the Gerrardstown site in January 2008.

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