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Gerrardstown quarry proponents, opponents given deadline to submit ideas to resolve appeal

October 23, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Attorneys engaged in a legal battle over a proposed shale quarry in Gerrardstown, W.Va. were given until Dec. 1 to submit proposed orders to resolve an appeal pending in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

Potomac Riverkeeper Inc., Washington Heritage Trail Inc. and Gerrardstown (W.Va.) Presbyterian Church filed in Berkeley County Circuit Court an appeal of a West Virginia Surface Mine Board decision that affirmed the state-issued permit for the operation.

After hearing arguments Tuesday from an attorneys for the quarry opponents, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and North Mountain Shale LLC, 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge John C. Yoder gave no indication on how he would rule on the appeal.

Prior to presenting their arguments, the attorneys on both sides indicated they did not object to Yoder presiding in the case after the judge advised he had conversations with those both for and against the quarry project before being elected to the state bench in 2008. Yoder previously represented the Eastern Panhandle in the state Senate.

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The hearing Tuesday attracted a large crowd of concerned residents and property owners, who filled the courtroom gallery benches on one side and spilled over to the other side.

The mining permit issued by the West Virginia 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 DEP and North Mountain Shale, which is a subsidiary of Continental Brick Co.,  have maintained the project has complied with the state’s review and permitting process.

In the hearing Tuesday, Joel Visser, an attorney for the quarry opponents, challenged how the company disclosed possible chemical flocculant use in the mining process, asserting proper notice was not given on the sediment control issue. Visser also challenged the adequacy of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s review of the impact of the quarry operation on historic resources of Gerrardstown, which recently celebrated its 225th year.

DEP attorney Joseph Jenkins said quarry opponents have been making “a big deal about something that’s not there” regarding the chemical issue and contended that they were miss-characterizing parts of the Surface Mine Board decision regarding the historic impact concern.

Jenkins said restrictions added to the quarry permit concerning truck traffic and the view shed reflect concerns about the quarry’s impact on historic resources. The permit limits the number of trucks hauling shale from the quarry site to no more than 10 per day over two work shifts, Jenkins noted.

The shale mining activities at the proposed site was restricted to the time frame of May to October, Jenkins noted.

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, according to the Surface Mine Board’s order.

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

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