David Miller, January 22, 2019
Columbus, Ohio — Today, the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) and Friends of Perry State Forest filed an appeal with the Environmental Review Appeals Commission, challenging a Clean Water Act permit issued by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) for a controversial proposed coal strip mine on more than 500 acres of the Perry State Forest.
“If it proceeds, this strip mine will disrupt the lives of nearby residents for years. This is a publicly owned forest; Oxford is asking neighbors, visitors, and the public at large to forgo recreational opportunities throughout the life of the mine,” said Nathan Johnson, attorney for the OEC.
The groups argue that OEPA’s non-numeric permit for the project is invalid because Oxford Mining Company failed to demonstrate that its mining and remediation efforts will result in improved water quality, as required by law.
“This permit cuts corners. It improperly waives water sampling and excludes important pollution limits,” said Johnson. “And this particular mining company has demonstrated time and again that it either can’t or won’t clean up the messes it makes at other strip mines.”
According to information received this December as part of an Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) public records request, Friends of Perry State Forest discovered that Oxford had 62 permit violations in Perry County between 1995 and 2018. At least seven instances of “acid water” discharges were listed among the violations.
“Despite hundreds of written and oral comments opposing the project which exposed serious technical and legal flaws and significant social and economic impacts, the OEPA took no steps to fix these concerns or revise the permit. They also ignored the community’s request for a second hearing,” said Friends of Perry State Forest member and local resident Lauren Ketcham. “This permit fails to protect our community and our public land.”
Oxford could mine in close proximity to homes and property lines, which could cause structural damage to homes and wells, reduced property values, increased traffic on local roads, noise from blasting and traffic, and air and water pollution. In addition to impacting local residents, the project affects the most popular APV area in the entire state and the Ohioans who enjoy hiking, fishing, hunting, and horseback riding in the forest.
The groups ask the Environmental Review Appeals Commission to send the permit back to OEPA for reconsideration, suspending Oxford’s ability to move forward with its mining plan.
“We look forward to challenging this bad permit before the Commission,” said Johnson.
In order for the project to move forward, Oxford will also need a mining permit from ODNR. The agency is expected to hold a second public meeting in New Lexington this winter.
Concerned citizens can submit comments to ODNR at firstname.lastname@example.org and include ODNR Application No. 10555.