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Protecting Perry State Forest

Chris Tavenor, Law Fellow, February 19, 2019

Even in 2019, coal companies are proposing strip mines in Ohio, ignoring climate change and our urgent need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Ohio must find a new path.

Oxford Mining Company seeks to strip coal from Perry State Forest in east-central Ohio. In January, the OEC and Friends of Perry State Forest appealed the issuance of its wastewater permit granted by the Ohio EPA.

But, the wastewater permit is only part of the story. On February 26, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources will hold a public hearing in New Lexington to discuss the coal company’s mining permit (which is separate from the water permit).

While our appeal of the wastewater permit hinges on failures to satisfy requirements of the Clean Water Act, our desire to protect the Perry State Forest also stands on three other important principles, and we urge all who enjoy Ohio’s publicly owned outdoor spaces to speak out against this mine.

First, we must protect our public lands so that all who call Ohio home can enjoy these special places. Transforming much of this state forest into a strip mine would devastate its ecosystem, both for us and for the wildlife that depend on it. In addition, this process would damage the ascetics of the region, harming neighboring farmers and ecotourism businesses.

Second, we must oppose the expansion of coal in Ohio. Not only is it the dirtiest fuel source—contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and respiratory disease—it’s uneconomical too. We should be moving away from coal and transitioning to clean and more affordable sources of renewable energy to fight climate change and create jobs for Ohioans.

Finally, Oxford Mining Company has a history of failing to properly clean up once it finishes mining. Our Appalachian region has suffered enough from the loss of jobs and destruction to the natural ecosystem left behind by coal companies.

Impact to Public Lands

The proposed coal mine in Perry State Forest, called the “Oxford APV Area,” will impact more than 500 acres of forested area. The company proposes to surface mine, meaning during the operation, it’ll be clearing significant sections of forest and disturbing the surface in massive chunks. The project will also include water discharges and blasting, which could affect the streams that run through the project and harm the community that borders the forest.

The proposed mine rests close to the Forest’s ATV trails. During public comment periods for the project, ATV groups came out in force to oppose it because it would disrupt their enjoyment.

Coal and Climate Change

The proposed mine will extract coal, the fossil fuel that, when burned, emits the highest rate of carbon dioxide. It’s the worst option as an energy source given our need to shift toward a clean energy future. And, recent climate reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration emphasize that we only have a decade or two to make the switch before it becomes exceedingly difficult to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

At the same time, all evidence shows that coal simply isn’t economical. It doesn’t create many jobs. In fact, there are currently fewer than 2,000 coal mining jobs in Ohio.

Furthermore, the Energy Information Administration shows that onshore wind provides cheaper electricity than coal per kilowatt, emphasizing the economical benefit of eliminating coal from our energy portfolio. Surface mine exploitation of Perry State Forest doesn’t make climate or economic sense.

Oxford Has Difficulty Cleaning Up its Messes

Regardless of the dangers of coal, we’re also concerned because Oxford Mining Company has a history of failing to mitigate mining damage, properly reclaim lands that it mines, and to properly test water discharges. In 2014, Oxford Mining failed to report violations of coal permits, resulting in a $650,000 fine. The company’s Director of Environmental Compliance submitted water sampling results that violated permit limits while claiming compliance.

Through public records requests, the OEC has obtained evidence that in the past, Oxford had outstanding reclamation costs that they continually failed to pay. Given the value placed upon Perry State Forest by Ohioans, especially nearby residents, we can’t risk putting it in the hands of this coal company.

What’s Next?
Show your support by submitting comments in opposition of the permit! Oxford Mining still needs approval of its mining permit before they can begin the project—a coal permit from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Not only is this mine bad for Perry State Forest, bad for climate change, and bad for Ohio’s economy, it’s bad for the community that surrounds the forest.