Meeting to focus on proposed deep mine in Donegal Township
A proposed deep coal mine project, a portion of which would be located Donegal Township, will be the subject of a public informational meeting to be held Tuesday that is being sponsored by the Mountain Watershed Association (MWA).
The meeting will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Highlands Hall at the corner of state routes 31 and 711 in Jones Mills.
It is being held in an effort to provide answers to a groundswell of questions received by association officials about the proposed project from township property owners who live either near or within its targeted boundaries, said Beverly Braverman, executive director of the Melcroft-based association.
“I've been getting many phone calls from people because of this letter they have received,” Braverman said.
The letter in question was sent to an unspecified number of landowners in both the township and Saltlick Township, Fayette County, by CME Engineering LP of Somerset.
In the document, CME environmental scientist Bradley Fisher explains that the company has been contracted by Johnstown-based LCT Energy LP to prepare a mining permit application for the project.
Fisher notes to each landowner in question that their property is located within the permit area of the proposed mine or within 1,000 feet of the permit boundary.
He then explains that, as part of the permitting process, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) requires CME Engineering to “gather information on the water sources and structures in the area.”
The purpose of the letter, Fisher explains to landowners, is to notify them of the project and that they see CME Engineering field personnel in their area over the next several months.
The letter also requests information from landowners regarding their water supplies and contact information.
Fisher also asks landowners to note that, if they refuse access to their water supply for this documentation, they may forfeit their rights under the Rebuttable Presumption provisions of the PA Code, including replacement of their water supplies.
In response to Fisher's letter, Braverman penned one of her own back to him in which she termed his letter to landowners as being “very confusing” and challenged the right which the company has to request such information from landowners.
“In closing, we would like a copy of the proposed area you want to inventory. We also request copies of your credentials,” Braverman wrote. “You are asking people to allow strangers to come on their property and possibly enter their homes. They are not required to do this based on a letter from some unknown company.
“MWA and its more than 1,000 members request that you rewrite your letter to be internally consistent and understandable to the people of whom you are asking the favor of access to their homes and precious water supplies.”
Neither Fisher nor any other representatives of CME Engineering LP of LCT Energy LP responded to requests for comment regarding this matter prior to the content deadline for the Oct. 18, 2012 edition of the Mt. Pleasant Journal.
Henry Hoffer, a Donegal Township supervisor, acknowledged being one of the property owners to receive the letter, which contained what he characterized as being a request for “a pre-permit survey” to be conducted on his land by the company.
“If you state that you don't want them to test your water, they won't, but it states in that letter that, if they do mine, and you lose your water, you don't have a leg to stand on, in their eyes,” Hoffer said.
Consequently, Hoffer said he will likely permit the company to conduct the requested survey.
“I would rather they come and test my water, then, if anything goes wrong and I have to file for recourse, legally, I will have a leg to stand on,” Hoffer said.
Any permits to carry forth with the proposed project, Hoffer said, must come from the state.
He added that this is the first proposal he has heard for a deep mine project in the township in his time as a supervisor and that the township has no established laws for regulating those kinds of mines.
“There is nothing we have in our ordinances to regulate this kind of thing,” Hoffer said. “If they follow the DEPs rules, they shouldn't have any problems.”
However, conducting these surveys the process which CME Engineering and LCT Energy officials must undergo to receive the necessary permit or permits to carry forth with the proposed project, said Bill Plassio, district mining manager of the DEP California District office.
“The mining company has to characterize the existing ground and surface water conditions, show the effects their mining operations will have on those conditions. That's the main crux of the mining permit application process,” Plassio said. “In this particular case, they are still gathering the information, they have not made any submittals to us, and we have looked at no information regarding that project at this time.”
A.J. Panian is a staff editor with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.