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ODNR holds public meeting in response to Perry State Forest mining permit

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Citizens of Perry County meet to voice their concerns over a submitted permit to strip mine over 500 acres of Perry State Forest.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) held a public meeting Tuesday in New Lexington for citizens to discuss concerns with a proposed surface coal mining and reclamation permit application submitted by Oxford Mining Company.

Oxford Mining Company, recently purchased by CCU Coal and Construction LLC, submitted a permit application to strip mine a 545-acre area west of Route 345 and north of County Road 48.

The New Political  previously reported on concerns voiced by local citizens and environmental advocacy groups that the permit issued under the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) lacked fundamental requirements.

Some citizens are also concerned about the lack of a proper land reclamation plan according to Nathan Johnson, director of public lands at the Ohio Environmental Council.

If accepted, the permit would call for the removal of trees, rocks, and soil, which engineers refer to as over-burden, along with the excavation of a coal layer relatively close to the surface.

In surface mining, run-off from acid mine drainage — the outflow of acidic water from metals and coal — will occur, along with the replacement of a bio-diverse forest and diverse species that belong to that specific area, according to Geoffrey Buckley, professor of environmental studies at Ohio University.

After the necessary mining is done, the company is to return the land to its original contour as best they can, but for a time, only grass will be able to grow.

“You’ve pretty much devastated that environment; there will certainly be loss of biodiversity, along with impact to local streams and acid mine drainage,” Buckley said. “There’s a price to pay for the coal we consume, but most of us don’t see that landscape of production. We just want the consumption.”

Some Perry County citizens voiced their concerns by requesting the Division of Mineral Resources Management (DMRM) to release a draft permit. Lanny Erdos, chief of the ODNR said that that is not a part of the application process.

The ODRN has not reached a point where it can approve the permit, Erdos said. The ODNR asked Oxford Mining Co. to conduct revisions on its permit application in response to an appeal filed under the OEC and Friends of Perry State Forest.

“We built our house to get away from the noise of the city,” Bonnie Garey, a resident of Perry county, said. “Now I don’t even know what I would do if my well gets contaminated since part of the proposed mining area is 300 feet from my yard.”

As it stands, there is no set date for Oxford to submit its revised permit application, Erdos said. CCU Coal and Construction LLC has to officially transfer any permits it acquired through Oxford Mining Company. It also has to disclose liabilities and post its reclamation bonds in order for the application process to continue, Erdos added.

According to an ODNR report ,Ohio’s annual coal production has declined nearly 59 percent to its present level (2003) of 22.3 million tons. This drop in production is due to the increasing regulation of surface mining, reclamation, health, and safety issues.

But the primary factor in the decrease is the Federal Clean Air Act of 1970 and its later amendments in 1977 and 1990.

Some Perry County citizens, including Loraine McCosker, an environmental studies instructor at Ohio U, also cited the decline in coal production as a concern for not allowing the permit to go forth.

“We’re at the tail end of mining production in Ohio,” McCosker said. “This has been happening to the citizens of Perry county for decades and them having to deal with the aftermath of coal mining in the area has to stop.”

The New Political reached out to the Oxford Mining Company, and CCU Coal and Construction LLC for comment, but there was no official response by the time of publication.

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