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Deep mine on Westmoreland/Fayette border on hold pending permit appeal

Stephen Huba
| Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, 5:27 p.m.

The Rustic Ridge #1 Deep Mine on the border of Westmoreland and Fayette counties is no closer to beginning production than it was a year ago, when it got the green light from the state.

The opening of the metallurgical coal mine is on hold because of an appeal of its mining permit by the Mountain Watershed Association, an environmental group whose offices are only a few miles from the proposed mine site.

The Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board has scheduled a hearing on the permit appeal for 10 a.m. Monday at the Pittsburgh office. The hearing before Judge Bernard A. Labuskes Jr. could last several days.

The Johnstown-based LCT Energy LP has proposed to mine 2,886 acres of the Lower Kittanning coal seam in Donegal Township in Westmoreland County and Saltlick Township in Fayette County.

The company, a division of Robindale Energy, began designing the Rustic Ridge mine in 2010 and obtained the necessary permits from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in December 2016.

However, the Mountain Watershed Association filed an appeal in January 2017, saying that the mine would have an adverse impact on water and air quality, as well as property values, in an area with a long history of coal mining.

Executive Director Beverly Braverman said the state DEP and the association have worked to remediate pollution in the Indian Creek Watershed, including the building of treatment systems to address contaminated water from past mining.

“Based on our sampling results, the watershed and its streams are coming back to life,” Braverman said. “It is incredible that DEP would issue a permit to deep mine and cause additional damage in the face of this restoration.”

The association claims LCT's proposed mine could cause pollution discharges into Champion Creek, a tributary of Indian Creek, which flows into the Youghiogheny River.

LCT officials could not be reached for comment, but the company's pre-hearing memorandum, filed on Thursday with the Environmental Hearing Board, said the mine will provide “numerous benefits” to the surrounding region.

“LCT and the DEP are confident that the mine will not pollute the waters of the Commonwealth, will protect the prevailing hydrologic balance of the area and will not create a public nuisance,” the memorandum said.

The benefits will include $50 million in capital investment, 100 to 120 full-time jobs and $200 million in regional wages and benefits over the 14-year life of the mine, the company said.

The association plans to hold a rally in front of the Environmental Hearing Board office at 12:30 p.m. Monday.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1280, or via Twitter @shuba_trib.

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