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Stahlstown surface mining company granted special exception

| Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Fayette County's zoning hearing board on Wednesday granted a special exception to a Stahlstown company for a surface-mining operation in Dunbar Township.

Board member Neil Brown and two alternates, Gwen Clarke and Deborah Marella, voted unanimously to grant the special exception to Amerikohl Mining Inc.

Another board member, Chairman Robert Guerriere, said he abstained because he was not present for most of the testimony that was taken during earlier public hearings on the request.

The company plans to remove 60 acres of coal from the 150-acre site, which is approximately one mile from Camp Carmel Road.

Board members approved the special exception without comment. After the meeting, Brown said it was approved because Amerikohl obtained all of the permits required by various agencies, including the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“They had everything in order,” Brown said.

The board's solicitor, Wendy O'Brien, said there are no special requirements attached to the approval, other than those that were discussed during the public hearings. Brown said those details will be contained in a resolution that was not immediately available after Wednesday's vote.

A number of residents and at least one organization, the Mountain Watershed Association in Melcroft, opposed the project during the public hearings. Some expressed concerns about its potential impact on the Youghiogheny River and groundwater, as well as the potential for fly ash from blasting.

Krissy Kasserman, Youghiogheny Riverkeeper with the Mountain Watershed Association, said the organization is disappointed with the board's decision. She declined additional comment because the board's written resolution is not yet available for review.

The zoning hearing board in 2009 denied Amerikohl's request for the surface mine. David Maxwell, Amerikohl vice president, said the company did not have a DEP permit at the time.

The approved application, he said, had the DEP permits and was “substantially changed” from the original request. The revised request, he said, deleted one coal seam because it could not be mined “environmentally safe,” he said.

In addition, Maxwell said, the revised request “changed the direction of mining and blasting to ensure no issues with the health, safety and welfare of the public,” or with people using the nearby Great Allegheny Passage bike trail.

“I'd have to thank the opposition for giving us their opinion on what their concerns were so they could be addressed, but also the board for sitting through the hearings and listening to both sides,” Maxwell said.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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