Dana Co. Hearing Scheduled for June

Washington PA  Observer Reporter
2 March 2011
By Bob Niedbala, Staff writer

A hearing on a petition for relief filed by Dana Mining Co. to allow it to continue a mine de-watering operation at Calvin Run in Perry Township has been scheduled for June.

An administrative law judge for the U.S. Department of Interior's Office of Hearings and Appeals granted the company's petition for temporary relief in February, suspending a cessation order issued by the U.S. Office of Surface Mining halting work at the site.

The cessation order was suspended by Administrative Law Judge Robert G. Holt until a full hearing could be held on the petition for relief. That hearing has been scheduled for June 29 and 30, said Elizabeth Bowman, spokeswoman for the Office of Hearing and Appeals.

The hearing, however, may be unnecessary if Dana obtains a mining permit for the project from the state Department of Environmental Protection before then, the company said.

Dana filed the petition for temporary relief in response to a cessation order issued Jan. 18 by OSM after OSM determined the project constituted "mining without a permit." OSM ordered the project halted until a mining permit was issued.

Dana is drilling two de-watering boreholes into the Humphrey Mine at Calvin Run so it can pump mine water to the Steele Shaft treatment plant operated by an affiliated company, AMD Reclamation Inc.

The company is mining Sewickley seam coal above the Pittsburgh seam formerly mined by Humphrey and must lower the mine pool to continue its mining operation.

During a hearing Feb. 3, Holt suspended the cessation order pending further consideration of the petition for relief. A hearing schedule, agreed to by all parties, requires discovery be completed by April 1 and motions filed by April 29, Bowman said.

The need for a hearing, however, might be unnecessary.

James Laurita Jr., Dana president, said the company has filed an application with DEP for a mining permit for the project and hopes to have the permit before the hearing, which would make the need for the hearing "moot."

Dana started the project believing it had received the necessary permits for the project based on its discussions with the state Department of Environmental Protection, he said.

The project is important in allowing the company's 4 West Mine to continue operations. About 600 employees depend on that operation for their livelihood, Laurita said.

The company had first received a mining permit for Calvin Run from DEP though DEP later revoked the permit after an appeal was filed by PennFuture and the Friends of Dunkard Creek.

Dana was then advised by DEP to proceed with the project after obtaining only an earth disturbance permit for the work. A DEP official said the agency at the time viewed the work as related to a water treatment operation rather than a mining operation.

Later, after OSM questioned DEP about permitting for the project, DEP agreed a mining permit should have been required.Sandy Liebhold, president of Friends of Dunkard Creek, said the groups were unhappy with DEP from the beginning for advising the company to proceed with the work without a mining permit after it earlier had revoking the permit.

One issue the group raised in appealing the original permit was that DEP had failed to give public notice and receive public comment on the permit application.

"It seems to me DEP has gone out of its way to mute our voice in this whole matter," Liebhold said.

The groups opposed the Calvin Run project saying it will only allow the Steele Shaft treatment plant to discharge additional polluted water into Dunkard Creek.

The groups also had filed a motion to intervene in the case before the Office of Hearings and Appeals. It's motion, however, was denied by Holt.

The scheduling of the hearing four months from now will make the need for a hearing unnecessary if Dana receives the mining permit from DEP before that time, Liebhold said. This, "in effect, nullifies OSM's action" in filing a cessation order to stop the company from conducting the work without a permit, he added.