In a joint comment filed last Thursday, the Sierra Club and the Ohio Environmental Council asked the Ohio EPA to deny a permit to Oxford Mining Company that would allow it to impact streams and wetlands at a proposed coal-mine site in northern Athens County...
The Sierra Club/OEC comments point out that at least three endangered aquatic animals have been found to reside in Johnson Run Creek and the Sunday Creek Watershed. Donald Wiggins Jr., Lake Erie engagement coordinator with the Ohio Environmental Council, said Friday that those species are all freshwater mussels – with the common names Sheepnose, Pink Mucket and Snuffbox.
Oxford’s water-quality certification request says that the project has been evaluated for potential effects to threatened and endangered species.
“Based on a review of all available information, it was determined that the proposed project would not affect any threatened or endangered species,” the permit application reads.
The Sierra Club/OEC comment alleges that Oxford has a history of “mismanaging” waterway and habitat restoration projects after coal-mine projects are complete.
“According to a series of inspections conducted in 2015, among 18 mining sites in southeast Ohio for which Oxford was issued 401 Water Quality Certifications, 12 of them were found to not meet the performance goals required by those certifications (or, if applicable, the approved mitigation plans associated with the mitigated resources) within a five-year monitoring period,” the comment reads. “Moreover, public records indicate that Oxford owes the State of Ohio over $24 million for its ongoing mitigation failures at 16 separate mining sites.”
According to public records provided by Wiggins, an assessment by the Ohio EPA in 2012 and 2013 found that much of the “restoration” of streams Oxford completed after mining projects (which mining companies are required to do by the Ohio EPA) did not meet requirements for that restoration.